As has now been well-documented, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway completely made up the “Bowling Green Massacre,” a fake terrorist attack in Kentucky, in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews last week. It turns out, Cosmopolitan reports, she did the same thing last month.
But now the fake event has a real website — raising real money to give to a real organization.
Following the interview, a website called the “Bowling Green Massacre Victims Fund” began to make the rounds on Twitter.
“We all still carry the vivid memories of what horrors occurred at Bowling Green, but some still relive those moments everyday as they work to rebuild a community torn apart,” the site reads. Further down on the webpage, there is a “donate” button.
The catch: It links to the American Civil Liberties Union’s online donation site.
Many on social media were quick to assume that the site was created by the ACLU, but a spokesperson for the organization denied any involvement with the site. In the website’s source code, a hidden message reads, “Parody. Not affiliated with anyone in particular.”
Through some online sleuthing, Vox tracked down the person behind the site, but he requested anonymity.
The ACLU could not report specific fundraising numbers from the weekend, but the organization has seen a massive increase in donations since Trump’s election. While it usually raises about $4 million online per year, in just the two days following the rollout of Trump’s refugee ban, the New York Times reported that it raised more than $24 million in online donations.
Conway, meanwhile, later tweeted that she “meant to say ‘Bowling Green terrorists,’” though Cosmopolitan reported Monday morning that Conway used the exact same phrase — “Bowling Green massacre” — in an previous on-the-record conversation with a reporter. Asked to clarify her position, Conway again falsely alluded to a terrorist plot:
Reached for comment Friday afternoon, Conway told Cosmopolitan.com by text message, "It was a plot to massacre and they were Bowling Green terrorists. That's what I should have said. I clarified.”
"Those were evil men who bragged about attacking American soldiers," she said.
Asked specifically where she got her information about the men joining ISIS and going back to the Middle East for training, she said, "I know when they were radicalized and received a briefing."
In a follow-up text exchange Sunday night, Conway wrote, "Frankly they were terrorists in Bowling Green but their massacre took place in Iraq. At least this got clear-thinking people to focus on what did happen in Bowling Green. I gave new life to that ABC News investigative report and the fact that these two Iraqi nationals came to the US with a plan of death and destruction."
But as Vox’s Zach Beauchamp explained, Conway’s walkback is still not reflective of what actually happened:
In 2011, two Iraqi refugees, Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, were arrested in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on federal terrorism charges. Allegedly, they had been plotting to send money and weapons back home to Iraqi insurgents.
During the investigation, the FBI found something worrying: fingerprints from Alwan on a roadside bomb in Iraq. This suggested there was a very specific flaw in America’s refugee screening process: Databases of fingerprints from Iraqi militants were not well-integrated into the broader State Department–run refugee admissions process. As a result, the Obama administration initiated a new review of all roughly 57,000 Iraqi refugees who had been recently admitted into the United States.
This process was manpower- and time-intensive, and resulted in a significant slowdown in Iraqi refugee admissions to the United States for six months. But it was not a ban, as Conway, Trump, and many in the conservative media claimed: Refugees from Iraq entered the United States in all six months.
So, to recap:
—No one was killed by refugees in Bowling Green.
—There was never even a plan to kill anyone in Bowling Green.
—There was no ban on Iraqi refugee admissions afterward.