This post has been updated with a newly discovered third instance of Conway citing the “Bowling Green attack” — with TMZ.
Kellyanne Conway thinks she took too much flak for citing a nonexistent “Bowling Green massacre” to justify President Trump’s travel ban. She said she simply meant to say “Bowling Green terrorists,” and she later said, “I misspoke one word.”
Except now she doesn’t appear to have misspoken at all; she seems to have believed that the Bowling Green massacre was a real thing.
How do we know? Because she cited the same nonexistent attack in separate interviews with two other outlets — Cosmopolitan magazine and TMz.
While discussing why former president Barack Obama halted refugees from Iraq in 2011, Conway explained to Cosmo on Jan. 29: “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.”
“He did that because, I assume, there were two Iraqis who came here, got radicalized, joined ISIS, and then were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green attack on our brave soldiers,” she said.
Conway’s version of events here is a mess. The FBI has said the two men “admitted using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and … attempted to send weapons and money to al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) for the purpose of killing U.S. soldiers.” The FBI did not say the two men traveled back to the Middle East to train for an attack. And there was no attack on U.S. soil.
Conway’s initial quote last week about Bowling Green — with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews — was that the Iraqis were the “masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre.” And it seemed plausible that she meant the men were the “masterminds” of the actual plot, which was to send weapons to al-Qaeda in Iraq.
But “masterminds” is also a word that generally connotes a complex terrorist act. And now we have these new quotes showing Conway believed this “Bowling Green massacre” involved overseas training and “taking innocent soldiers’ lives away” in Bowling Green, Ky.
Trump supporters will dismiss this as quibbling, given that the men did target U.S. soldiers in Iraq. But Trump’s travel ban is aimed at preventing domestic terrorism, of which Bowling Green isn’t an example. Yet Conway cited it three times as justification and seemed to believe a massacre occurred there.
And it all goes back to a point I made last week about what this says about the White House’s messaging operation. A week after Trump’s travel ban was instituted, Conway still didn’t seem to have her talking points down:
Perhaps it could be excused as a slip of the tongue. But in context, it’s just more evidence of a White House messaging operation that doesn’t have its shoes on the right feet. Time and again in the last two weeks, Trump’s top messengers have gotten their facts wrong, mixed their messages and struggled to defend their boss. There simply doesn’t seem to be any plan.
Add this one to the list.
Update: Relatedly, CNN’s “State of the Union” now says it declined Conway as a guest for Sunday’s show. It didn’t say why, but the New York Times’ Jim Rutenberg says CNN told him it had “serious questions about her credibility,” and some media watchdogs have been calling on cable news to stop booking Conway for that same reason.
Conway had said she was not available for the Sunday show, but CNN disputes that.
Aaron Blake is senior political reporter for The Fix.