Senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway made a statement during a TV interview Thursday that pricked the ears of fact-checkers everywhere.
She told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews:
“I bet it’s brand new information to people that 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 behind the Bowling Green massacre. It didn’t get covered.”
First of all, Obama didn’t ban the Iraqi refugee program.
Second, there’s no such thing as the Bowling Green massacre.
Conway later clarified that she was referencing the case of two Iraqis – Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi – who lived in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Both were granted refugee status and entered the United States in 2009.
“On @hardball@NBCNews@MSNBC I meant to say ‘Bowling Green terrorists’ as reported here,” she said, before linking to an ABC news story on the case.
The two men were never planning on committing an act of terrorism on US soil. Instead, they were trying to help get weapons to al Qaeda in Iraq. They were terrorists who should not have been allowed in the country, but they weren’t planning an attack in the United States. And they didn’t kill anyone in Bowling Green (or anywhere else in the US).
CNN has reached out to the White House seeking comment of Conway’s statement and have not yet received a response.
Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Trump’s general election Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, referenced Conway’s comments in a tweet Friday morning, saying “don’t make up fake attacks.”
“Very grateful no one seriously hurt in the Louvre attack …or the (completely fake) Bowling Green Massacre. Please don’t make up attacks.”
Some background on that case:
After arriving in the United States, the men were monitored by federal authorities. They told an FBI confidential informant that they wanted to provide weapons and explosives to al Qaeda in Iraq, court documents said.
An extensive undercover sting operation was launched, authorities said, and Alwan – who a Justice Department official once called “a really bad guy” – told an undercover agent he had been involved with “hundreds” of IEDs.
An indictment released at the time said the United States was able to locate Alwan’s fingerprints on an IED and on the base of a cordless phone used in an attack near Bayji, Iraq in the early 2000s. That the vetting process didn’t work and that these men were allowed into the country highlighted serious flaws in the refugee resettlement system and led to reforms of the vetting process.
As a result, Obama ordered that 57,000-58,000 Iraqi refugees recently allowed into the country be revetted, causing a massive backlog. So, while there was no specific ‘ban’ on Iraqi refugees coming into the country, there was a delay in allowing anymore in.
So to recap: There was no massacre in Bowling Green, and Obama didn’t ban Iraqi refugees from the country for six months. Major outlets, including CNN, did cover Alwan and Hammadi’s case. We did not, however, cover the Bowling Green massacre because it never happened.
CNN’s Elizabeth Landers and Tina Burnside contributed to this report