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Conway’s Bowling Green Massacre Claim Wasn’t An ‘Honest Mistake’

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Conway’s Bowling Green Massacre Claim Wasn’t An ‘Honest Mistake’


Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

It turns out senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway didn’t misspeak only one time when she referenced a fictional “massacre” that unfolded in Bowling Green, KY at the hands of two Iraqi-born men in 2011. She actually told that tall tale in at least three interviews in recent weeks, attempting to defend President Donald Trump’s ban on travel for visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries. That, and to wrap the media’s knuckles for ignoring the alleged massacre.

The latest revelation is troubling because it completely undermines Conway’s defense that when she mentioned the “massacre” on MSNBC last week, she simply made an “honest mistake” where she “misspoke one word,” and that instead of a “Bowling Green massacre” she meant to refer to the two Iraqi men as “Bowling Green terrorists.” In other words, “massacre” sprang out in a moment of on-air confusion, and then “haters” in the media blew the story out of proportion.

If that were the case, it might be within bounds for Conway to push back on critics, even though she was reckless using “massacre.”

But that’s not the case. Because if you look at the language Conway used on MSNBC, it’s obvious she didn’t employ “massacre” by mistake. (Her whole point was that the men were the “masterminds behind” the “massacre.”)

We now know that Conway picked the same word more than once while peddling the Bowling Green narrative, which certainly suggests the storytelling was deliberate. (“Massacre” isn’t a word that often tumbles out of mouths of surrogates by mistake, let alone twice while telling the exact same story.)

Why does Bowling Green matter, aside from the opportunity to mock Conway’s dishonest and dangerous fabrication? It matters because Bowling Green could offer a deeper glimpse into the alternate reality that may be developing within the White House regarding current events, and how that “reality” is being used to advance the White House’s desire to demonize Muslims.

Bowling Green matters because it represents the swelling challenge the press faces in covering the Trump White House, based on its almost chronic attempts to fabricate information. And as that challenge swells, it becomes imperative that journalists not believe anything the White House tell them – ever — before the claims are able to be independently verified.

Writing about Conway and her Bowling Green adventure in The New York Times, media columnist Jim Rutenberg suggested her debacle represented good news for the media in their battle against Trump era fake news. Pointing to the speed and authority with which the “story fell apart so spectacularly,” Rutenberg hoped “the tale of the ‘massacre’ could be the start of something new.” (The episode certainly damaged her reputation at CNN, which reportedly declined to have her on Sunday’s State of the Union.)

I also hope the Bowling Green debunking could be the start of something new. But I have grave doubts, simply because Trump and his advisers rarely seem chastened, even after caught telling flat out lies, or inventing news events, such as a fictional mass killing in the Bluegrass State.

Meanwhile, look at the fabrication that sprang sprung up around Conway’s lie. Trump on Monday suggested the press purposefully ignores or downplays terror attacks. (“They have their reasons, and you understand that,” saidTrump.) When pressed for examples, the White House released a list of large-scale attacks, including the December 2015 gun rampage in San Bernardino, CA, where 14 people were killed, and the November 2015 Paris terror attacks that left 130 dead and hundreds more wounded.

But the idea that news organizations across the spectrum, both national and local, collectively choose to not cover terror attacks is nonsensical and easily refuted. The three television broadcast network evening newscasts devoted 237 minutes to the San Bernardino attack, making it the third most-covered news story of 2015, according to television news analyst Andrew Tyndall. The same analysis found the Paris attacks to be the fifth most-covered story. Overall, the rise of ISIS was the fourth most-covered story.

It was just more nonsense from Trump. In fact, Alex Jones’ conspiracy-loving Infowars website has been pushing the idea that the U.S. press, for political reasons, won’t report on terror attacks. (Jones has been a close media ally of Trump’s dating back to the campaign. In fact, Trump appeared on Jones’ show to praise the conspiracy theorist’s “amazing” reputation just hours before the San Bernardino attack.)

In terms of the fictitious massacre, Bowling Green is emblematic of a White House that’s scooping up all kinds of dubious, unproven claims and presenting them as facts, particularly when the topic is hyping the threat of Islamic terror surrounding the travel ban. (Defending the initiative, Trump posted a fake news article on his Facebook page.)

Meanwhile, the idea that Conway simply misspoke is categorically false. Providing additional details to the fictional massacre, here’s what she told Cosmopolitan during a January 29 interview:

“Why did [Obama] 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.”

In that telling, the two men “traveled back to the Middle East to get trained and refine their terrorism skills” and then returned to the U.S. to unleash their “massacre,” which took “innocent soldiers’ lives” in the U.S.

As Cosmopolitan explained, none of that is accurate.

The good news is Conway’s awkward “massacre” fabrication was quickly and aggressively debunked, and her reputation may have suffered a long-term hit. The disturbing downside: The Conway incident isn’t a random, dismissible incident. As the Trump White House has proven repeatedly, making things up is becoming the rule, not the exception.

IMAGE: Screenshot/MSNBC



  1. I Am Helpy February 8, 2017

    Turns out Spicer has also been referring to made-up terrorist attacks – at least three times he’s mentioned an attack in Atlanta that never happened.

    1. Daniel Jones February 8, 2017

      Of course he did. As Delenn spoke of propagandists in an episode of Babylon 5:
      “You do not wish to know .. anything. You wish only to speak. That which you
      know, you ignore, because it is inconvenient. That which you do not know,
      you invent.”

      That is how Trump and his alternative fact crew roll.

      1. I Am Helpy February 8, 2017

        I’m upvoting that purely for the fact you’re making a political argument based on Babylon 5.

        1. Robertatbellamy February 9, 2017

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  2. Thoughtopsy February 9, 2017

    Watch Jake Tapper’s CNN interview of Trump’s Spokescobra.
    Not only does she start verbally flailing around, but her usual tactic of: Agree but Disagree then Pivot got knocked off the rails several times.

    Then at several points later on, Tapper flat out calls her on her lies and she immediately reverses… on the point she made only seconds before.

    The continual attempts to pivot to Veterans, and Heroin programs, etc etc was also almost desperate.
    My favorite part was Tapper’s facial expressions when she said: “The Trump administration believes truth is very important.” or something like that. Priceless.

    I think she’s finally coming apart.

    Link for those interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_n4CVpkTGc
    The good bits start about 40 seconds in… and the last half is by far the best if you’re short of time.
    Skip the last word by Conway… she basically just spouts political propaganda for the last 45 seconds or so and ignores everything they’ve talked about in the discussion.

    1. Mama Bear February 9, 2017

      darn…”spokescobra”….wish I had thought of that!

  3. dbtheonly February 9, 2017


    I think you’re missing the larger point.

    A. In constant reference to the Bowling Green Massacre; how much confusion does the RWMO sew? Mistaken for Fort Hood? Misremembered as a real item? Or just generally muddying the waters?

    B. They’re “playing the referees”. Doing outrageous things now, so that they create the new normal. Two years from now inventing a massacre won’t be outrageous, it might not even be notable. Can they wear out “the Press” by sending them on consistent fact checking assignments?

    C. Misdirection. How much of the Bowling Green refutation gets lost because Trump tweets that Nordstroms is being mean to the Princess Royal by not selling her products?

    No, guys, this is bad is so many different ways.

    1. Mama Bear February 9, 2017

      I agree. It was funny at first but it appears there is a method to it. If you read the comments on any newsite – ABC, MSN, etc you will be astounded at the number of people who defend these liars and want to fight about what is really “truth”. I would say their method’s objective is to create chaos. It is working.

      1. dpaano February 9, 2017

        And that is JUST what Bannon wants. His mantra was that he wanted to sow chaos within the government, and he’s doing a really great job of it!!

  4. rednekokie February 9, 2017

    Of course it was not an “innocent mistake”. It was a deliberate lie — spoken several times in order to direct attention away from something more important.

    Everything this yo yo says is a lie — she has yet to say one single truth when speaking about the tRump. She is right along with the rest of the pack as far as that is concerned.

    1. dpaano February 9, 2017

      I laughed at Trevor Noah the other night when he said that he was “conwayed” when someone lied to him about something. It’s my NEW word now! If someone lies to me….I’m going to accuse them of trying to “Conway” me!!!

      1. rednekokie February 9, 2017

        Now that’s neat! I puts the right humour tightly around these sick, ridiculous comments coming out of D C.
        Count me in on the new word!

        1. dpaano February 9, 2017

          If you ever get a chance to watch Trevor Noah (you might get him on YouTube), he’s hilarious and really makes fun of 45 constantly!!! He’s a male Samantha Bee!!! He’s from South Africa also.

        2. Fur Hunter February 10, 2017

          You and ‘D’ keep up the great posts and comments. I’m lovin’ it!!!……………….Thornton

          1. rednekokie February 10, 2017

            TY Thornton — yeeeee hawwwww yourself.
            I really am going to answer your e-mail – once I can get my arse out of all the work I’ve fallen into.
            Glad you like my sarcastic (some call it wit).

          2. Fur Hunter February 10, 2017

            Not to worry. Take your time. I’m not going anywhere. And, yes….keep up your terrific wit and sarcasm with these posts of yours. I love them. I get a charge out of them.

      2. Fur Hunter February 10, 2017

        Hey ‘D’……Lovin’ it! New word!!! Keep up the great posts and comments…..YeeeeHaw!!!……………………..Thornton

  5. FireBaron February 9, 2017

    Truth is a concept alien to Kellyanne Conway. Please remember her background is a GOP Pollster. That means her job was to get enough “data” to go back to her bosses with a favorable report of whatever they wanted.
    How else could the GOP come up with statements like “Obamacare is evil” and “Roe v. Wade is evil” when the vast majority of the people in GOP elected districts think the ACA is great because they can now afford decent insurance instead of those nominal policies that didn’t cover anything more than a bottle of aspirin, and that Roe protects them from pregnancies from rape and incest.
    So, she is a spin-mistress. Whatever utterances come out of her mouth will be colored by her background of only telling the people who hired her what they want to hear.

    1. dpaano February 9, 2017

      Again, as my very smart mom used to say…..”one lies; the other swears to it.” This explains it 100%! 45 lies and Conway swears to it, along with Spicer. 45 and his cronies are just one big bunch of inveterate liars!!! Unfortunately, they are getting caught by the ever-present media, and that’s a GOOD thing!

  6. jmprint February 9, 2017

    This is exactly what she did to Hillary, together with Bannon, Jones and Stones, they saturated the market with U-Tubes lies against Hillary and Obama, brain washing all those that voted for Trumpf into thinking Hillary was playing the above the law card, all while ignoring Trumps total disrespect for the laws and our constitution. All republicans are hypocrites.

  7. Thomas Martin February 10, 2017

    Conway is a pro at repeating lies because she knows the tribe will follow in truth.


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