Trump responds to Barcelona attack by suggesting that mass murder of Muslims would deter terrorism

"Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught."


President Trump’s response to an attack in Barcelona, Spain that left 13 dead was to suggest that mass murdering Muslims suspected of terrorism might be a way to deter future incidents.

Trump’s initial public reaction to the attack on Thursday was a tweet that generically condemned the violence, offered U.S. help to the people of Spain, and told the Spanish people, “we love you!”

But less than an hour later, after news that the van that plowed into pedestrians was reportedly rented by a Moroccan man emerged, Trump urged his followers to “Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!”

This wasn’t the first time Trump has alluded to an Islamophobic story involving General John Joseph Pershing. During a campaign rally in February 2016, Trump shared a historically dubious tale about how Pershing, in an effort to pacify the Philippines in the years following the Spanish-American War of 1899-1902, slaughtered terrorists using bullets that had been dipped in pig’s blood.

Here’s what Trump said at that rally in South Carolina:

They were having terrorism problems, just like we do. And [Pershing] 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.

As ThinkProgress detailed shortly after that rally, the story about Pershing slaughtering Muslims with bullets using pig’s blood has its origin in hoax email chains. According to the myth-busting site Snopes, the notion that pig’s blood is some sort of kryptonite to Muslims stems from a 1939 film, and the story about Pershing presiding over the mass murder of suspected terrorists is a fabrication.

Trump’s tweets about the Barcelona attack — tweets he posted before definitive information about the names of the attackers or their motives had been publicly released — stands in contrast to the approach he took following a white supremacist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.


On Saturday, an alleged Nazi sympathizer drove a car into a crowd of people who had gathered to demonstrate against white supremacy, killing one and injuring 19 others. But instead of immediately condemning the attack — something Trump has regularly done in situations where Muslims are the suspected perpetrators — the president instead tried to pin blame “on many sides.”

During a news conference Tuesday, Trump said his “many sides” statements was a product of wanting to make sure whatever he said was correct and supported by the facts.

“I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters,” he said, before going on to say that while a Nazi sympathizer may have murdered a woman and injured 19 more, some of the white supremacists who rallied alongside him “were very fine people.”