Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump is facing more controversy this week after that creepy loyalty pledge at a rally in Orlando, Florida. Trump reportedly had the crowd raise their right hands and pledge to vote for him in the Florida primary, and the resulting videos and pictures look alarmingly like a Nazi salute. Yet Trump says he fails to see a problem with it. During a call-in interview with TODAY Tuesday morning, Trump defended his loyalty pledge in, well, the worst way possible.
Trump, who seemed shocked that the pledge had caused such negative backlash, said it was all in good fun. "I think it's ridiculous. We're having such a great time. ... Sometimes we'll do [the pledge] for fun. They'll start screaming at me, 'Do the swear-in, do the swear-in!' They're having such a great time." Trump skillfully deflected both the blame for the pledge onto the audience and Savannah Guthrie's question about whether he would reconsider the use of the pledge, instead stating his disbelief that anyone found the pictures offensive.
Trump certainly should not have been surprised by this reaction. After repeatedly being called a racist by liberal pundits, outspoken celebrities, and millions of social media users, it seems completely unbelievable that the optics of the pledge would not have occurred to him or anyone else in his campaign. Normally, a candidate would be doing absolutely anything to put this fire out and dispel the notion of open racism. Yet Trump has repeatedly leaned into it, hesitating to denounce former KKK leader David Duke's endorsement, condoning the assault of a Black Lives Matter protester at an Atlanta rally in November, and advocating for an absolute ban on Muslims entering the United States.
Therefore, it seems clear Trump was seeking a reaction like this, to stir controversy and create headlines. Strategically utilizing the media is fine — every candidate does it and it can be the only way to win an election in today's 24-hour news media environment. The problem is that Trump doesn't seem to mind throwing anyone under the bus, or trivializing a devastating and still painful piece of cultural history for a marginalized group of people.
The most insulting part of his statement to anyone that has been directly attacked by Trump, including Muslims, Mexicans, and the disabled, is that he swears he would never do anything offensive. "If it's offensive, if there's anything wrong with it, I wouldn't do it," he said during the TODAY interview.
Except, as has been very well documented in the last 10 months since Trump announced his candidacy, his entire campaign is built almost entirely around being offensive. If he doesn't think he's been offensive so far, it's frightening to think what he actually finds offensive.