Speaking Friday at a rally in Charleston, South Carolina, GOP front-runner Donald Trump not only reiterated his support for various kinds of torture with regard to combating terrorism, but also cited a discredited myth about how U.S. general John J. Pershing supposedly deterred Islamic terrorism in the Philippines a century ago by executing Muslim prisoners with bullets laced with pigs’ blood. (Islam forbids the consumption of swine.) Explained Trump:
He took fifty bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood. And he had his men load his rifles and he lined up the fifty people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the fiftieth 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?
Though Trump said he had read the “terrible” story and you could find it in the history books, the Philippines incident never happened, so far as anyone else can tell (though the U.S. military had worked to suppress Filipino freedom fighters around that time). As MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin notes, the pigs’ blood story most likely originated via an anti-Muslim chain-email hoax that began shortly after 9/11, according to the rumor debunkers at Snopes.com, who could find absolutely no evidence that the story was true.
Trump also referred to the torture method of waterboarding, which he “feels great about,” as only “borderline” or “like minimal, minimal, minimal torture.” He warned the crowd that, with regards to Islamic extremism, “We better start getting tough and we better start getting vigilant, and we better start using our heads or we’re not gonna have a country, folks.”
Rival candidate Marco Rubio responded to the story Saturday morning on The Today Show, calling it “bizarre.” “I’m sure people are offended. We hope people are offended by that. That’s not what the United States is about,” said Rubio, who has cited tactical secrecy as the reason he refuses to offer his own opinion on waterboarding, and has also called for the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay — where torture was conducted on enemy combatants during George W. Bush’s presidency — to be refilled with terrorism suspects.
Watch the segment of Trump’s speech, which begins at 33:18, below:
This post was updated to incorporate Marco Rubio’s response.