In his final speech before the South Carolina primary, Donald Trump went to the extreme, even for his standards, riling up supporters with a bloodthirsty tale to seemingly explain why the United States needs to be brutal when it comes to fighting terrorists. Trump repeated a legend that has lived online for years about Gen. John Pershing, who supposedly executed Muslim terrorists who were being held prisoner in the Philippines using bullets dipped in pigs’ blood.
Trump’s turn to email–chain-letter hoax-land began with reiterating his support for torture as a way to combat terrorism. He made clear that as far as he is concerned, waterboarding should be the starting point and not the limit when it comes to torture tactics. “The big question is: Is it torture or not?” Trump said. “It’s so borderline. It’s like your minimal, minimal, minimal torture.”
The real estate mogul then got the crowd excited with the promise of gory tales. “You know, I read story—it’s a terrible story, but I’ll tell you,” Trump said. “Should I tell you? Or should I not?” The crowd (of course) cheered, and Trump began talking about “rough guy” Pershing who was fighting terrorists in the early 1900s. Although the Donald didn’t specify, the online versions of the tale say it took place in the Philippines.
“They had terrorism problems, just like we do,” Trump said. The front-runner for the Republican nomination never actually said the terrorists were Muslim, but he subtly noted: “And you know there’s a whole thing with swine and animals and pigs and you know the story, they don’t like that.”
Trump then goes on to tell the tale:
And [Pershing] caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage and killed many people. And he took the 50 terrorists, and he took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pigs’ blood—you heard that, right? He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood. And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said: You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened. And for 25 years there wasn’t a problem. OK? Twenty-five years, there wasn’t a problem.
The moral of the story? “We better start getting tough and we better start getting vigilant and we better start using our heads or we’re not going to have a country folks.”
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio characterized Trump’s words as “bizarre” during an interview on NBC Saturday morning. “I’m sure people are offended. We hope people are offended by that. That’s not what the United States is about,” Rubio said.