What on Earth is the 'Bowling Green massacre?'

Posted at 12:57 AM, Feb 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-03 11:56:40-05

Viewers who tuned into Chris Matthews' Thursday night interview with Kellyanne Conway on MSNBC might have walked away confused by one specific reference made by the Trump adviser -- a reference to an act of violence that she said had taken place, but not been covered because of media bias in favor of then-President Obama.

The Bowling Green massacre.

The massacre surfaced in Conway's defense of President Trump's controversial executive order limiting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and suspending the United States' Syrian refugee program. Conway said that the Obama administration had temporarily suspending the Iraqi refugee program after the Bowling Green massacre, but major news outlets had not covered either the suspension or the massacre itself.

“I bet it’s brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqi refugees came here to this country, were radicalized and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre,” Conway said. “Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered."

Residents living near the area might have responded to this claim with some confusion -- how could we not have heard about this? Even in the absence of mainstream news coverage, word travels, right? They weren't the only ones: More than 60,000 tweets about the incident were posted Thursday night, some of them equally bewildered. Why hadn't this event been covered?

There’s a simple answer:

It didn’t get covered because it didn’t happen.

Bowling Green, Kentucky, was in 2011 the site of an incident that caused the Obama administration to review its vetting procedures and, in the process, pause approvals of new Iraqi refugees for six months, according to The Mirror. However, no one died.

Conway’s reference most closely matches the case of Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, two Iraqi refugees who were arrested in 2011 and charged with attempting to aid al-Qaida by sending money and weapons from Bowling Green to Iraq. Neither the money nor the weapons ever reached foreign shores, the Associated Press reported, because they were intercepted by an FBI investigation into the two men’s activities.

Federal authorities said that Alwan had "boasted of constructing and using IEDs against Humvees and Bradley vehicles" and that his fingerprints had been matched to an improvised explosive device found in Iraq. 

However, neither man was linked to attacks or planned attacks within the United States. Both eventually pleaded guilty to terror charges -- Hammadi was sentenced to life in prison, and Alwan was sentenced to 40 years followed by lifetime supervised release, according to the Department of Justice.

Proponents of stronger checks on incoming refugees and immigrants might have an effective cautionary tale on their side in Bowling Green. However, claiming that a massacre took place there is untrue.

Conway walked back the statement Friday on Twitter.