Not a ‘one word’ error: Conway repeatedly told elaborate stories about fake ‘Bowling Green massacre’
Trump advisor mentioned non-existent attack three times, weaving complex tale about masterminds training in Mideast before killing ‘innocent soldiers’ in US
Donald Trump’s advisor Kellyanne Conway has claimed she simply misspoke in referring to the non-existent “Bowling Green massacre”, supposedly perpetrated by Iraqi refugees.
But in fact, she has used the term at least three times in media interviews, and even cited an elaborate, tale about the supposed masterminds travelling to the Middle East, training as terrorists, then returning to the US where they killed “innocent soldiers”. None of it ever happened.
The controversy began last week when Conway, defending the US president’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, told MSNBC that two Iraqis who came to the US and had been radicalised “were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre”.
Fact-checkers quickly pointed out that no such massacre took place. Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former president Bill and defeated candidate Hillary, described it as “completely fake” , tweeting: “Please don’t make up attacks.”
Conway, who was Trump’s campaign manager during the election, tweeted the next day that she had “misspoke one word” and made an “ honest mistake ” and had meant to say “Bowling Green terrorists”, referring to two Iraqi citizens from Bowling Green, Kentucky, who had been convicted of trying to send weapons and money to al-Qaeda.
But on Monday it emerged that this was not an isolated incident: she had used the word “massacre” twice before during interviews with reporters.
On January 29, speaking to Cosmopolitan.com, she was extremely specific about the non-existent event: “[T]wo Iraqi nationals came to this country, joined Isis, travelled 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 on the same day, Conway was captured on video telling TMZ: “There were two Iraqis who came here, got radicalised, joined Isis, and then were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green attack on our brave soldiers.”
Democrats seized on the triple discrepancy. Zac Petkanas, senior adviser to the Democratic National Committee, said: “It’s now clear this wasn’t an honest mistake or a simple slip of the tongue.
“The Trump administration was so desperate to sell their increasingly unpopular and likely illegal anti-Muslim ban that they actually made up a terrorist attack to scare people into acceptance.”
Neil Sroka, spokesperson for the liberal pressure group Democracy for America, added: “It’s not surprising that the people leading Donald Trump’s White House are following in his footsteps as unrepentant liar. The idea you would invent a terrorist attack to support a bigoted policy for the United States is reprehensible.
“Anyone who has aligned herself with Trump is beyond shame at this point. I think she should resign but I have no doubt they will continue to sit in a very nice White House office and do garbage.”
Conway has been seen as an artful communicator for Trump, but her “massacre” gaffe came on the heels of another comment about “alternative facts” that was also widely mocked amid a debate about the spread of fake news.
Trump has been quick to turn the fake news charge on the mainstream media. On Monday he attacked the New York Times for writing “total fiction” about him and even claimed, without evidence, that journalists were deliberately covering up reports of terrorist attacks.
Speaking to the US central command in Florida, the president went off script to tell military leaders: “You’ve seen what happened in Paris, and Nice. All over Europe, it’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.”
Later, according to a pooled report, White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested that Trump believes such as attacks are “underreported” rather than not reported at all.
“He felt members of the media don’t always cover some of those events to the extent that other events might get covered,” Spicer said.
“Protests will get blown out of the water, and yet an attack or a foiled attack doesn’t necessarily get the same coverage. He’s doing what he can to protect this nation and protect our people. And that’s why I think sometimes the polls don’t reflect what you see on the media.
“You see a wide degree of support for the president’s policies to protect this country, to create jobs, to grow the economy. And yet a lot of those stories and success that he’s had – in a mere two and a half weeks in office – aren’t exactly covered to the degree to which they should be.”
Asked about specific attacks that had not been reported, he said: “We’ll provide a list later. There’s several instances … There’s a lot of instances that have occurred where I don’t think they’ve gotten the coverage it deserved.”