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Kellyanne Conway made up a fake terrorist attack to justify Trump’s “Muslim ban”

Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that aired on Thursday night, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway managed to get two huge things wrong in a short, 19-second answer. First, she said that the Obama administration banned Iraqi refugees from entering in the United States for six months in 2011 — which is flatly untrue.

Second, and more significantly, she made up a terrorist attack committed by Iraqi refugees that never happened — the “Bowling Green Massacre”:

Joe Sonka is, to be clear, 100 percent correct about this. There has never been a terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Kentucky, committed by Iraqi refugees.

Conway claims that “most people don't know that because it didn't get covered.” Most people don’t know about it because it didn’t happen.

Where Conway is coming from (I think)

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:

  1. No one was killed by refugees in Bowling Green.
  2. There was never even a plan to kill anyone in Bowling Green.
  3. There was no ban on Iraqi refugee admissions afterward.

It is, I suppose, possible that Conway was referring to the other Bowling Green Massacre, which is a local haunted house.

Update: Conway appears to have acknowledged her error, obliquely calling the Bowling Green Massacre an “honest mistake.” But it’s so couched in defensiveness and attacks on the media that it’s hard to tell, so she doesn’t really get any credit given the scale of the mistake:

How should the media cover a White House that isn't afraid to lie?

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