(CN) – An hour after tweeting a consoling message on the alleged terror attack in Barcelona, President Donald Trump returned to Twitter Thursday afternoon to repeat a widely discredited tale of how General John Pershing executed Muslim insurgents in the Philippines more than a century ago.
In his first statement on the van attack that left at least 13 people dead in Barcelona’s tourist-heavy Las Ramblas neighborhood on Thursday, Trump condemned the attackers, and said the United States “will do whatever is necessary to help.”
But an hour later, Trump was back on his cellphone, tweeting one of his favorite stories about getting tough on Muslim insurgents.
“Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!” he said.
Trump first trotted out the story concerning the aftermath of the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902 during a Feb. 19, 2016, campaign rally in North Charleston, S.C. The war occurred shortly after the United States obtained the Asian archipelago from Spain in exchange for ending the Spanish-American War.
After the armed insurgency, Pershing served as governor of the Philippines’ Moro Province, which had a large Muslim population and was the scene of an ongoing insurgency.
“They were having terrorism problems, just like we do,” Trump told his audience in North Charleston. “And he 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. Okay? Twenty-five years, there wasn’t a problem.”
Historians responded en masse, pointing out that there is absolutely no evidence that this ever happened.
Many said the tale is a heavily skewed retelling on a comment in a memoir by Pershing titled “My Life Before the World War, 1860-1917.”
Republished in 2013, Pershing writes in it that another commanding officer in the Philippines, Col. Frank West, had in at least one case seen to it that bodies of Muslim insurgents “were publicly buried in the same grave with a dead pig. It was not pleasant to have to take such measures, but the prospect of going to hell instead of heaven sometimes deterred the would-be assassins.”