Kellyanne Conway has taken “alternative facts” to a new level.
During a Thursday interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews, the counselor to the president defended President Trump's travel ban related to seven majority-Muslim countries. At one point, Conway made a reference to two Iraqi refugees whom she described as the masterminds behind “the Bowling Green Massacre.”
“Most people don't know that because it didn't get covered,” Conway said.
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The Bowling Green Massacre didn't get covered because it didn't happen. There has never been a terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Kentucky, carried out by Iraqi refugees or anyone else.
Conway was likely referring to two Iraqi citizens living in Bowling Green who were arrested in 2011 and eventually sentenced to federal prison for attempting to send weapons and money to al-Qaida in Iraq for the purpose of killing U.S. soldiers, according to a news release from the Department of Justice.
Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, 25, was sentenced to life in federal prison, and Waad Ramadan Alwan, 31 to 40 years in federal prison, followed by a life term of supervised release. Both men pleaded guilty to federal terrorism charges.
Both men admitted having taken part in attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, not in Bowling Green.
Here's what the Justice Department said in Jan. 29, 2013, news release:
Hammadi and Alwan both admitted, in FBI interviews that followed waiver of their Miranda rights, to participation in the purported material support operations in Kentucky, and both provided the FBI details of their prior involvement in insurgent activities while living in Iraq. Both men believed their activities in Kentucky were supporting AQI. Alwan admitted participating in IED attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and Hammadi admitted to participating in 10 to 11 IED attacks as well as shooting at a U.S. soldier in an observation tower.
Court documents filed in this case reveal that the Bowling Green office of the FBI's Louisville Division initiated an investigation of Alwan in which they used a confidential human source (CHS). The CHS met with Alwan and recorded their meetings and conversations beginning in August 2010. The CHS represented to Alwan that he was working with a group to ship money and weapons to Mujahadeen in Iraq. From September 2010 through May 2011, Alwan participated in ten separate operations to send weapons and money that he believed were destined for terrorists in Iraq. Between October 2010 and January 2011, Alwan drew diagrams of multiple types of IEDs and instructed the CHS how to make them. In January 2011, Alwan recruited Hammadi, a fellow Iraqi national living in Bowling Green, to assist in these material support operations. Beginning in January 2011 and continuing until his arrest in late May 2011, Hammadi participated with Alwan in helping load money and weapons that he believed were destined for terrorists in Iraq.
Conway reiterated claims from Trump that his refugee policy is similar to “what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months.” Conway said it was “brand new information” to people that Obama enacted a “six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program.” Breitbart also reported earlier this week that “Obama suspended Iraq refugee program for six months over terrorism fears in 2011.”
As The Washington Post reported, this was not the case. Obama administration officials told The Post that there was never a point when Iraqi resettlement was stopped or banned. In the aftermath of the arrests of the two Iraqis living in Kentucky, the Obama administration imposed more extensive background checks on Iraqi refugees, and the new screening procedures created a dramatic slowdown in visa approvals.
State Department records show there was a significant drop in refugee arrivals from Iraq in 2011, The Post's Glenn Kessler reported. There were 18,251 in 2010, 6,339 in 2011 and 16,369 in 2012. One news report said the "pace of visa approvals having slowed to a crawl," indicating some were still being approved.
Conway's interview was by no means the first time the arrests of the two Iraqis in Bowling Green have been politicized as support for blocking refugees from reaching the United States. In December 2015, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., released a dramatic campaign video ad featuring images and video footage of the two Iraqi nationals, while criticizing then-presidential rivals Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. In the 90-second-long ad, the faces of Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi are featured with pounding, dismal music, establishing that the men were “welcomed into America, given public housing, and public assistance — as refugees.”
After Conway's comments, “Bowling Green Massacre” was the number-one topic trending on Twitter, and Conway's interview prompted many to share memories of where they were “when the Bowling Green Massacre didn't happen.”