Donald Trump has at least twice recounted in the last few years a debunked story about U.S. General John Pershing having 49 Muslim rebels in the Philippines shot with “bullets dipped in pig’s blood” as an example to others that Trump claimed ended terrorism for “25 years.” He boasted about the event during a campaign stop in South Carolina in early 2016 (in the video above) and weeks later at another rally in California (when he said terrorism was ended for 42 years). He referred to it again in the White House after the Barcelona terror attack in 2017.
The horrific shooting story, which historians say did not happen, is among several cases of Trump’s anti-Muslim statements. His comments regarding Islam and Muslims are coming under increasing scrutiny in the wake of the New Zealand attack on two mosques that killed 50 people. The suspected gunman released a manifesto citing American white supremacy as an inspiration. He named Trump specifically “as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”
“These things don’t happen in a vacuum,” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) advocacy group, told Huffpost Saturday. “An atmosphere of hate promoted by our nation’s leader can lead to attacks like what happened in New Zealand.”
Though Trump has expressed sympathy to those affected by the “monstrous terror attacks” in Christchurch, he notably hasn’t mentioned the word “Muslim” or “Islam”— nor have members of his administration. He did, however, condemn the “anti-Semitic” attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue last year that killed 11 people. And he has decried terror attacks on “Christians.”
In other clear signs of his position, Trump banned immigrants to the U.S. from several mostly Muslim nations, and sharply reduced the number of Muslim refugees allowed into the country.
He has also urged establishing a national database to track all Muslims in the U.S., and falsely claimed that he “watched” on TV as “thousands and thousands” of Muslims living in Jersey City cheered the 9/11 attacks when they occurred.
He told CBS News in a campaign interview in late 2015: “If you have people coming out of mosques with hatred and death in their eyes and on their minds, we’re going to have to do something.” He told CNN in 2016 that “Islam hates us. There’s a tremendous hatred … There’s an unbelievable hatred of us.”
“There’s no question that he’s an Islamaphobe,” said Hooper.
As for Trump’s Philippines story, historians have debunked it. Pershing did put down the Moro Rebellion by Muslim Moro tribesmen in the southern Philippines more than a century ago, but they were rebels, not terrorists, fighting on their own soil against a foreign army. There is no known evidence that Pershing had his men use rifles to shoot 49 “lined up” Muslims with bullets dipped in pig’s blood. Such an event would have been a war crime.
“I’ve been hearing this story since 9/11,” historian Brian Linn, author of “The Philippine War, 1899-1902, told Politico. “It’s no truer now than it was when I first heard it … the story is nonsense.” And Pershing would “never have referred to the Moro violence as terrorism,” Linn added.
When Trump recounted the tale the first time during his campaign, CAIR warned at the time that his “inflammatory rhetoric” could incite violence against Muslims. By stating that the “only way to stop terrorism is to murder Muslims in graphic and religiously offensive ways, he places the lives of millions of innocent, law-abiding citizens in the American Muslim community at risk from rogue vigilantes,” CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad said then.