On Thursday, following a terrorism attack in Barcelona, Spain, that left at least 12 victims dead, President Donald Trump condemned the attackers on Twitter, who were allegedly members of the Islamic State.
However, Trump didn’t stop there. In a follow-up message Trump wrote, “Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!”
As Politifact noted, this isn’t the first time Trump has referenced Pershing, who served as governor of Moro Province, a majority-Muslim area in the Philippines, following the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902.
“They were having terrorism problems, just like we do,” Trump said during a rally in South Carolina in 2016, according to the Washington Post. Trump went on to add,
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.
In his most recent tweet, that gap changed to 35 years.
However, according to the history books, Pershing never dipped bullets in pigs blood or let the fiftieth person go, or really did any of the things Trump claimed.
Off the bat, his biggest blunder in this tweet is equivocating the Muslim faith with terrorists.
“The Moros were fighting for a lot of reasons, not just because they were Muslims,” Lance Janda, a military historian at Cameron University, told Politifact. “This is another fact that gets lost in many modern discussions of terrorism.”
Additionally, several historians noted that the events Trump described flat out never happened.
“This story is a fabrication and has long been discredited,” Brian McAllister Linn, a Texas A&M University historian and author of Guardians of Empire: The U.S. Army and the Pacific, 1902-1940, told Politifact. “I am amazed it is still making the rounds.”
Moreover, Frank E. Vandiver, professor of history at Texas A&M University and author of Black Jack: The Life and Times of John J. Pershing, told About.com that not only was the story untrue, it would have also “run completely against his character.”
“I never found any indication that it was true in extensive research on his Moro experiences,” Vandiver said.
Instead, Janda explained to Politifact that Pershing did a lot of “what we would call ‘winning hearts and minds’ and embraced reforms which helped end their resistance.”
“He fought too, but only when he had to, and only against tribes or bands that just wouldn’t negotiate with him,” Janda added. “He wasn’t solely committed to fighting as people like Trump who tell the pig blood story imply.”
Historian after historian and expert after expert warned that not only was Trump completely off base with his versions of events (otherwise known as “fake news”), he’s also off in believing that his made up version of pacifying insurgents would work.
“Where Trump’s remark becomes ridiculous is in the idea that this actually worked,” David J. Silbey, a Cornell University historian and author of A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, told Politifact. “The Moro War did not end until 1913, and even that’s a bit of a soft date, with violence continuing for quite a while afterward. Defilement by pig’s blood isn’t — and wasn’t — some magical method of ending terrorism.”