North Charleston, S.C. — Donald Trump closed his South Carolina campaign on Friday with a rambling speech highlighted by an enthusiasm for torturing and summarily executing the suspected enemies of America in the name of safety.
Speaking about terrorism and national security, Trump repeated an apparent legend about how General John Pershing supposedly ordered the execution of dozens of Muslim prisoners in the Philippines during a guerrilla war against United States forces in the early 1900s.
Trump called it "a terrible story."
"He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pig's blood," Trump said. "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?"
The story appears to be a hoax spread via e-mail forwards, according to rumor tracker Snopes.com,with no evidence it occurred.
The moral of the tale, according to Trump: "We better start getting tough and we better start getting vigilant, and we better start using our heads or we're not gonna have a country, folks."
Trump downplayed waterboarding, a banned interrogation tactic that he has pledged to bring back for use against suspected terrorists.
"Is it torture or not? It's so borderline," he said. "It's like minimal, minimal, minimal torture."
Trump went on to boast how fears of terrorism had boosted him politically, including in South Carolina where he leads a number of polls by double-digit margins. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll has Trump's lead shrinking to 5 point ahead of Ted Cruz.
"When Paris happened, everyone started saying, 'We want Trump!'" he said. "The polls came in, 60 percent, 70 percent, 72 percent. This is 72 percent with 17 people running. Now we're down to 6, we got rid of all these people. It's so great. It's so great."
Trump tied the San Bernardino shooting into an argument over gun rights, saying the loss of life could have been minimized if the county health department workers who were fired upon had been armed. Fourteen people were killed in the Dec. 2 attack in California.
"If there were guns on the other side pointed at the other direction so the bullets are flying both ways, you wouldn't have had that happen," he said.
Trump supporter Eleanor Crume, 72, told MSNBC afterwards that she agreed with Trump's stance on waterboarding because terrorists should not be "pampered."
"We need someone who can lead the country because people are scared to death," she said. "It's only a matter of time before terrorists come and start chopping Christian heads off in the United States."
South Carolina Lieutenant Gov. Henry McMaster, Trump's most prominent endorser in the state, set the tone for the event before Trump came on.
"How many of you feel real safe right now?" McMaster asked.
"Nooooooooo!" the audience answered.
"We're gonna change that," McMaster replied.
This story first appeared on MSNBC.com