Donald Trump definitely did not ask his followers to perform a Nazi salute, the mogul said on Tuesday during a phone interview on NBC's Today show. And to compare what some of his supporters did at a rally—raising their right hands in a gesture reminiscent of the so-called Hitlergruß used by the Third Reich—is "ridiculous," according to Trump.
"Honestly, until this phone call, I didn't realize it was a problem," Trump said during the phone interview.
An image of Trump supporters making the gesture at an Orlando, Florida, rally on March 5 began making the rounds on the Internet soon after it was tweeted by Washington Post political reporter Jenna Johnson.
Donald Trump makes members of his Orlando crowd raise their right hands and swear to vote in the primary. pic.twitter.com/EVenRilJrV— Jenna Johnson (@wpjenna) March 5, 2016
Trump wasn't asking his supporters to hail victory, but rather to "solemnly swear" to vote for him in the Florida Republican primary, where polls show Trump, who is from New York, beating Marco Rubio, who Florida voters elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, by 20 points.
In light of Trump's recent remarks about Muslims and Mexican immigrants, however, Trump's political opponents are using the image to bolster the comparison between Trump and Adolf Hitler in Germany in the 1930s.
During his interview on Today, hosts Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer pressed Trump on the comparison. "I wonder how you feel about that comparison, and whether it would make you want to perhaps not do it anymore," Guthrie asked. Trump said he would "certainly look into it," but added that he thinks it's "a big, big stretch" to compare his supporters to Nazis.
In February, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke urged listeners to his radio show to vote for Trump. "Voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage," Duke said, according to BuzzFeed News.
At one point, Trump failed to repudiate Duke, but later relented, saying he "disavowed" Duke's endorsement.