President Trump’s advisor Kellyanne Conway confused viewers during a 2 February 2017 MSNBC segment when she asserted that a “Bowling Green Massacre” was the sort of terrorist event that temporary travel restrictions imposed by the president on nationals from seven countries were intended to prevent:
I bet it’s brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.
Almost immediately, pundits, reporters, and social media users noted that no Bowling Green Massacre took place, and that the 2011 arrests of two Iraqi nationals in Kentucky was not ignored by the media (as the New York Times reported in July of that year):
The Obama administration has required new background checks for visa applicants, reacting to a case in Kentucky in which two Iraqi immigrants were arrested on suspicion of ties to an insurgent group, according to American officials in Baghdad.
Moreover, the Los Angeles Times, PBS NewsHour, Foreign Policy, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and ABC News all covered the 2011 Kentucky case as well as the subsequent delay in processing visas for Iraqis that occurred in its wake.
In 2013, the Department of Justice issued a press release on the sentencing of Mohanad Shareef Hammadi and Waad Ramadan Alwan on federal terrorism charges.
The day after her MSNBC appearance, Conway asserted she had misspoken during the segment:
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) February 3, 2017
“Bowling Green Massacre” soon topped a list of Twitter trends on 3 February 2017, with users primarily making light of Conway’s error:
Saddened and sickened by Frederick Douglass’ silence surrounding the Bowling Green Massacre. — Natasha Rothwell (@natasharothwell) February 3, 2017
Guys, these Bowling Green Massacre jokes are a little too soon. Out of respect, we should wait until it takes place. #AltFacts
— Rob Lawson (@roblawsonjr) February 3, 2017
My GF that nobody believe I had was in the Bowling Green Massacre RIP Esmeralda — Kevin Flood (@FLOOKLYN) February 3, 2017
The SEAL Team that thwarted the Bowling Green Massacre. pic.twitter.com/DlPfhkmxHs
— Jeremy Newberger (@jeremynewberger) February 3, 2017
Please, a moment of alternative silence for the victims of the Bowling Green massacre — Colin Barber (@TheCBarbsFiles) February 3, 2017
RT if you died in the Bowling Green Massacre.
— E (@esheikh_) February 3, 2017
It’s not just the Bowling Green Massacre. Refugees were also behind the Narnia Bombings, the shootings in Atlantis and the Midsomer Murders pic.twitter.com/PW1u9Md0s2
— David Schneider (@davidschneider) February 3, 2017
On 3 February 2017, CNN was among the news outlets that provided context for Conway’s statement:
So to recap: There was no massacre in Bowling Green, and Obama didn’t ban Iraqi refugees from the country for six months. Major outlets, including CNN, did cover Alwan and Hammadi’s case. We did not, however, cover the Bowling Green massacre because it never happened.
A Washington Post article also clarified that the “Bowling Green massacre didn’t get covered because it didn’t happen … [t]here has never been a terrorist attack in Bowling Green, [Kentucky] carried out by Iraqi refugees or anyone else.”
On 6 February 2017, the Washington Post reported two other instances of Conway’s referencing the “Bowling Green Massacre, contradicting her claim that she simply misspoke and intended to reference “terrorists”:
[Conway] cited the same nonexistent attack in separate interviews with two other outlets — Cosmopolitan magazine and [TMZ].
While discussing why former president Barack Obama halted refugees from Iraq in 2011, Conway explained to Cosmo on Jan. 29 : “He did that because two Iraqi nationals came to this country, joined ISIS, traveled back to the Middle East to get trained and refine their terrorism skills and come back here, and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre of taking innocent soldiers’ lives away.”
And she echoed those comments when interviewed by TMZ that same day, as the Daily Beast pointed out Monday afternoon.
“He did that because, I assume, there were two Iraqis who came here, got radicalized, joined ISIS, and then were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green attack on our brave soldiers,” she said.
The Post referenced a 6 February 2017 Cosmopolitan item that reported:
Conway tweeted that she meant to say “Bowling Green terrorists” and had made an “honest mistake.” … But in an interview with Cosmopolitan.com conducted by phone days earlier, on Sunday, Jan. 29, Conway used the same phrasing, claiming that President Barack Obama called for a temporary “ban on Iraqi refugees” after the “Bowling Green massacre.” (The quotes did not appear in either of two stories recently published on Cosmopolitan.com.)
“He did, it’s a fact,” she said of Obama. “Why did he do that? He did that for exactly the same reasons. He did that because two Iraqi nationals came to this country, joined ISIS, traveled back to the Middle East to get trained and refine their terrorism skills, and come back here, and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre of taking innocent soldiers’ lives away.”
Cosmopolitan noted that Conway’s “Bowling Green Massacre” remarks did not appear in their original reporting of an interview they conducted with Conway on 29 January 2017. But TMZ published a video on 29 January 2017, during which Conway again referenced the non-existent massacre (at approximately the 0:55 mark):
Blake, Aaron. “Kellyanne Conway’s ‘Bowling Green Massacre’ Wasn’t a Slip of the Tongue. She Has Said It Before.”
The Washington Post. 6 February 2017.
Mascia, Kristen. “That MSNBC Interview Was Not the First Time Kellyanne Conway Referred to the “Bowling Green Massacre”.”
Cosmopolitan. 6 February 2017.
Schmidt, Samantha. “Kellyanne Conway Cites ‘Bowling Green Massacre’ That Never Happened to Defend Travel Ban.”
The Washington Post. 3 February 2017.
CNN. “Trump Adviser Cites Non-Existent ‘Massacre’ Defending Ban.”
3 February 2017.
Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs. “Former Iraqi Terrorists Living in Kentucky Sentenced for Terrorist Activities.”
29 January 2013.
TMZ. “Kellyanne Conway Says Obama Started the Muslim Ban.”
29 January 2017.