Donald Trump’s well-documented penchant for telling colorful tales on the campaign trail was on display once again on Friday night as he regaled a South Carolina crowd with a gory yarn that almost immediately garnered shock and skepticism. Speaking at a campaign event in North Charleston, Trump told supporters a story of famed United States General John J. Pershing’s wartime exploits, sharing a controversial story of how Pershing allegedly treated a group of Muslim prisoners during the Philippine-American War.
According to an account by CNN, the audience grew quiet as Trump recounted a story in which Pershing directed his men to dip bullets in pigs’ blood as they prepared to execute the prisoners. Muslims are taught to avoid contact with swine under Islamic law.
“[Pershing] lined up the 50 people and they shot 49 of those 50 people, and he said to the 50th, you go back to your people and you tell them what happened – and in 25 years there wasn’t a problem,” Trump said.
The story was part of a larger narrative that the GOP frontrunner has brought forth over the course of recent weeks in which he has asserted that waterboarding and torture are essential components of America’s ongoing war on terrorism. Trump has also downplayed the importance of the Geneva Conventions over the course of recent months.
As stated in an informational article published by the U.S. Department of State, the American-Philippine War spanned 1899-1902. The American government’s own account implicitly acknowledges that civilians in the Philippines suffered greatly during the war, as “U.S. forces at times burned villages, implemented civilian reconcentration policies, and employed torture on suspected guerrillas.” It is worth noting that the objective of the war was to subjugate the island nation to colonial rule.
Media outlets who fact-checked Donald Trump’s cautionary parable were quick to brand the story with terms like “apocryphal” and “urban legend.” The Washington Post noted that the tale has circulated online for some time, stating that it is “probably not true.” The paper also indicated that Trump appeared to anticipate some scrutiny of the account by telling supporters that the story does not appear in history books because “they don’t like teaching this.”
Fellow Republican Marco Rubio expressed disdain with Donald Trump regarding his decision to propagate a fictionalized parable for political purposes. During an appearance on The Today Show, Rubio referred to the move as “bizarre” and indicated that he understood why people might be offended by such rhetoric.
“We’re in a very weird year,” Rubio said in comments transcribed by Greenville Online. “People seem to say whatever they want and there’s no accountability.”
CNN reported that the Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement expressing alarm at Trump’s sentiments and motives.
“By directly stating that the only way to stop terrorism is to murder Muslims in graphic and religiously-offensive ways, he places the millions of innocent, law-abiding citizens in the American Muslim community at risk from rogue vigilantes… He further implies that our nation should adopt a strategy of systematized violence in its engagement with the global Muslim community, a chilling message from a potential leader. We pray that no one who hears this message follows his gospel of hate.”
As with numerous other controversies incited by Trump during his presidential campaign, the flap did not detract from his standing with voters, as the Republican candidate appeared to be in position to win the South Carolina primary on Saturday night. Donald Trump is also favored to win subsequent primaries within the coming weeks.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]