A former Homeland security adviser to President Barack Obama said Friday that President Donald Trump's recent invocation of a myth about a US general killing Muslim prisoners is dangerous because it's "fact-free."
"It's absurd not only because it's fact-free, it's absolutely without any basis," Lisa Monaco said. "It's been debunked by historians for years. And it's a danger because it's putting forward, basically claiming we should use an atrocity, in essence a war crime, in response to terrorism."
In the wake of Thursday's 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 debunked story is about Pershing's forces capturing and killing Muslim prisoners with bullets dipped in pigs' blood to deter future terror attacks.
Speaking on CNN's "New Day" Friday morning, Monaco, now a CNN national security analyst, warned that Trump's rhetoric about the tale of Pershing is exactly the kind that plays into the hands of terrorists.
"Well anytime you play into, with rhetoric of the kind we saw yesterday, you play into the ISIS message that we are in a war with Islam. That's what they use to recruit individuals to their fight to come and become radicalized," she said. "So anytime you use rhetoric like the kind we saw yesterday, you're playing into that message and helping that recruiting and indeed feeding their message that US citizens should be a target."
The President previously referred to Pershing at a February 2016 campaign rally. In the story, Trump said Pershing, "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."
However, experts have largely debunked the story. Snopes, a website that fact-checks internet rumors, declared it to be false. Politifact, another fact-checking website, gave it a "Pants on Fire" rating.
Monaco suggested that instead of doling out false history lessons, Trump should be extending a hand to Spain.
"What the US should be doing in the aftermath of a horror like this that's visited upon our ally, and of course Spain is a NATO ally, is showing steady strength and resolve and solidarity with our Spanish partners," she said.