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Kellyanne Conway, a top aide to President Donald Trump, cited a 2011 “massacre” in Kentucky that never happened as a reason why the administration’s temporary ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations is necessary.
During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that aired Thursday, Conway defended Trump’s executive order on immigration last week by saying that former President Barack Obama instituted a similar policy for Iraqi refugees in 2011.
“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 between the Bowling Green massacre. Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered,” Conway said.
Conway is referring to a tightening of security checks for entry into the U.S. after the May 2011 arrest of two men on charges of plotting to send weapons and money to al-Qaida operatives waging an insurgency in their native Iraq. Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, were mistakenly admitted to the U.S. as Iraqi refugees in 2009 and resettled in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Calling the Obama administration’s actions a “ban” on Iraqi refugees is misleading. A formal ban wasn’t announced by that administration, though there was a dramatic decline in the number of Iraqis allowed to move the U.S. in 2011. Officials at the time cited an enhanced security clearance process for delaying Iraqi visa applications.
Alwan and Hammadi are in prison after pleading guilty. They were never accused of plotting to launch attacks inside the U.S.
Conway’s comments made fodder for jokes among social media users with “Bowling Green massacre” quickly becoming a top trending topic on Twitter with a flurry of tweets mourning the nonexistent victims.
Conway took to Twitter around 9 a.m. ET to say she meant to say “Bowling Green terrorists,” instead of massacre.
“On @hardball @NBCNews @MSNBC I meant to say ‘Bowling Green terrorists,'” she wrote, along with a link to a 2013 ABC News story.
On @hardball @NBCNews @MSNBC I meant to say “Bowling Green terrorists” as reported here:
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) February 3, 2017
While many mocked Conway’s mistake, others took issue with the seriousness of the error.
Friday morning saw an attack on the Louvre Museum in Paris when a knife-wielding man shouting “Allahu akbar“ — “God is Great,” in Arabic — attacked French soldiers on patrol near the museum Friday in what officials described as a suspected terror attack.
“Very grateful no one seriously hurt in the Louvre attack …or the (completely fake) Bowling Green Massacre. Please don’t make up attacks,” tweeted Chelsea Clinton.
As the story continued to trend, Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson released a statement confirming there was no massacre in the city and thanking Conway for her correction. “I understand during a live interview how one can misspeak and we appreciate the clarification,” he said in the statement.
In response to a fan request, actor and Broadway singer Josh Gad recorded an original, NSFW song, titled “You’re Making Things Up Again Conway” about the issue.
“I’m a man of my word,” he wrote after vowing to create the song if the Twitter user’s request post received 1,000 likes. “#youremakingthingsupagainconway NSFW Enjoy before the state department pulls it down.”
Four days after the interview, Cosmopolitan reported that Conway made the same error during an interview with the website on Jan. 29 when she claimed President Obama called for a “ban on Iraqi refugees” after the “Bowling Green massacre.”
“He did, it’s a fact,” she said of Obama, according to the newly published on-record interview. “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.”
Cosmo added that the FBI responded to their request for confirmation with a link to a Justice Department press release in an email saying, “A couple of your facts seem incorrect.”
“It was a plot to massacre and they were Bowling Green terrorists. That’s what I should have said. I clarified,” Conway told Cosmo in response to the story.
The Daily Beast also pointed to a third instance on Monday, sharing a TMZ video from Jan. 29 where Conway again referenced the “Bowling Green attack” when asked about the ban.
See some of the social media reactions to Conway’s “Bowling Green massacre” comment below.
City of Bowling Green Mayor, Bruce Wilkerson makes statement. See attached. pic.twitter.com/XKIK0rLMM7
— Bowling Green KY (@CityofBGKY) February 3, 2017
I’m a man of my word. #youremakingthingsupagainconway NSFW Enjoy before the state department pulls it down. pic.twitter.com/LRlfxQ8XUu
— Josh Gad (@joshgad) February 3, 2017
Very grateful no one seriously hurt in the Louvre attack …or the (completely fake) Bowling Green Massacre. Please don’t make up attacks.
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) February 3, 2017
A+ retort from @CNN: “We did not cover the Bowling Green massacre because it never happened.” https://t.co/dkYSEwhtLM
— Peter Daou (@peterdaou) February 3, 2017
guys, i found the 2011 bowling green massacre. stop pretending this didn’t happen. pic.twitter.com/1jCJo2EWMB
— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) February 3, 2017
More people were killed in the Bowling Green Massacre than were killed in the French Revolution. Period #BowlingGreenMassacre #SpicerFacts pic.twitter.com/L7AgpoeIJC
— SpicerFacts (@SpicerFacts) February 3, 2017
Donald Trump & the White House have now talked more about the fake Bowling Green Massacre than the bigot who murdered 6 Muslims this weekend
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) February 3, 2017
There’s only one director who could properly depict the relentless carnage of the Bowling Green Massacre and that’s Mel Gibson.
— billy eichner (@billyeichner) February 3, 2017
Finding these Bowling Green Massacre jokes to be a little too soon. Out of respect, we should wait until it takes place.
— Justin Shanes (@justinshanes) February 3, 2017
Saddened and sickened by Frederick Douglass’ silence surrounding the Bowling Green Massacre.
— Natasha Rothwell (@natasharothwell) February 3, 2017
The Bowling Green Massacre is an alternative fact.
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) February 3, 2017
What is the “Bowling Green Massacre?” None of us have ever heard of it.
— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) February 3, 2017
Images from #bowlinggreen massacre.Poor Eric did his back in really bad. @KellyannePolls thank you for reminding us. pic.twitter.com/BKiOmqPTqj
— Adil Ray OBE (@adilray) February 3, 2017
Feb. 6, 12 p.m. ET: Updated with Cosmopolitan.com report.
2 p.m.: Updated with TMZ video.
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