Published in Buzzworthy, 2017
Speaking a few days ago with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in defense of President Trump’s widely-derided immigration ban, senior advisor to the president Kellyanne Conway had the following to say: “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 were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.” Conway’s commentary was bizarre and undeniably misleading – largely because neither of its key points were true.
The two Iraqi men to which Conway referred, Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, were arrested in 2011 in Bowling Green, Kentucky as part of an FBI sting operation on charges related to supporting terrorist groups (specifically, Al Qaeda). The pair was subsequently convicted of attempts to smuggle weaponry and money to overseas Al Qaeda bases, as well as aiding Al Qaeda members in attacking US troops in Iraq. Neither man was ever charged with even planning a domestic terrorist attack, and the alleged “Bowling Green Massacre” was a complete fabrication. To make matters more troubling for Conway, Obama’s supposed ban on Iraqi refugees never happened either. Certainly, as a direct response to the arrests, stricter vetting process were imposed on Iraqi citizens still in Iraq undergoing the process of visa and refugee applications, and refugees already processed within the US were re-vetted. However, this vetting process sanctioned by the Obama administration was by no means comparable to President Trump’s travel ban (or “Muslim ban”) as it made no attempt to prevent Iraqis with green cards and valid visas from entering the country.
Conway’s use of the term “Bowing Green massacre” was also not solely adopted in her interview with Chris Matthews. Four days earlier, Cosmopolitan’s Kristen Mascia had made note of the term in her interview transcript with Conway – and while it was not published at the time, the quote was released following the mass circulation of the MSNBC blunder. Mascia discussed the release of the quote on her Facebook by stating, “it didn’t surprise me that the comment was premeditated and that she’d tried it on multiple writers (who knows who else she auditioned it with, frankly). But others out there may not know this about her and they should. We must call out the WH for stuff like this because it’s egregious and totally unacceptable.”