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Trump promotes unfounded story about mass killing of terrorists

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump shares unfounded story about the mass killing of suspected terrorists following an attack in Barcelona.
  • It comes during a week in which Trump has faced stark criticism for his response to racially charged violence.
Trump promotes unfounded story about mass killing of terrorists

President Donald Trump on Thursday promoted a graphic, unfounded story about the mass killing of suspected terrorists in the early 20th century.

Following a suspected terror attack in Barcelona, Trump tweeted: "Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!"

The president shared the purported story as a candidate in February 2016, as he brought up his support for waterboarding, according to The Washington Post. The tale, often characterized as a myth, has made rounds on the internet but historians do not see real evidence to back it, according to PolitiFact.

Trump pushed the Pershing tale during a week in which he faced stark criticism from bipartisan lawmakers and business leaders for his response to an attack at a white nationalist rally in Virginia over the weekend. Trump appeared to suggest a moral equivalency between people marching in the white nationalist rally and other protesting against them.

When Trump last year told the story about Gen. John Pershing, he said it took place in the early 1900s but did not specify a location, according to the Post. Pershing served as governor of a largely Muslim province in the Philippines from 1909-1913 as the United States tried to establish control of the area, PolitiFact said.

Here's how Trump told the tale last year, according to the Post:

"They were having terrorism problems, just like we do. 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."

Aside from the story's questionable accuracy, it would be an extrajudicial, religiously charged mass killing.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations denounced the tale when Trump first told it.

"By directly stating that the only way to stop terrorism is to murder Muslims in graphic and religiously-offensive ways, he places the millions of innocent, law-abiding citizens in the American Muslim community at risk from rogue vigilantes," Nihad Awad, national executive director of CAIR, said in a February 2016 statement.

The tweet Thursday likely will not make life any easier for Trump during a week in which he has faced backlash for his response to racially charged violence.