In response to today’s terror attack in Barcelona that killed at least 13 people and injured dozens more, President Trump quickly reacted. He first tweeted what felt like a carefully worded condemnation on behalf of America: “The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!” What came next, however, took an entirely different tone, for Trump decided to resurrect a false internet meme that he’s parroted prior to this event. He tweeted, “Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!”
Trump was citing an urban legend, one that he also referenced during a February 2016 rally. In doing so, he recanted a century-old counterinsurgency parable that spoke of U.S. Army General John Pershing executing Muslim prisoners with bullets that were coated in pig’s blood. As the legend goes, he did so to discourage Muslims from rebelling against the U.S., but the story was quickly called out by fact-checkers as false.