Top Trump Adviser Justifies Travel Ban By Citing ‘Massacre’ That Never Happened

Today in "Alternative Facts."

Donald Trump Shrug

Of all the things that have come out in the first two weeks of the Trump Administration, the concept of “Alternative Facts” is perhaps the most bizarre. It started, apparently, with Trump’s claim that the media was lying about the size of the crowd on the National Mall to witness his Inauguration, claims that were repeated by Press Secretary Sean Spicer during his very first press briefing the day after the Inauguration. Later that weekend, Trump’s former campaign manager and current White House adviser Kellyanne Conway appeared on Meet The Press and defended Trump and Spicer by saying they were relying on “alternative facts” in making their claims, a statement that basically left host Chuck Todd flabbergasted as he pointed out, correctly, that “alternative facts” are lies. Commenting on all of this in the aftermath of that first weekend of the Trump Era, The Atlantic’s David Graham made this observation:

[I]t fits with a long-running mantra from Trump aides and supporters that there’s no such thing as an objective reality. The question for Trump and his aides is simple: If you’re willing to lie about stuff this minuscule, why should anyone believe what you say about the really big things that matter?

The Trump campaign made a winning wager that enough voters didn’t care that they could get away with that, and the nascent Trump administration seems to be going double-or-nothing on the gamble. Perhaps that’s a winning bet, and objective facts are a thing of the past. But that’s a claim that’s been advanced before, not that long ago, in American history, by a Republican administration whose top aides disdained the “reality-based community.” That administration left office amid an enormous economic recession, and Trump himself called George W. Bush’s war in Iraq “a big fat mistake.” It’s a strange precedent for Trump to adopt at the start of his presidency.

Given how fast and loose Trump and his supporters played with the truth during the course of his seventeen month campaign for President, I have to disagree with Graham’s final point that this idea of “alternative facts” is a “strange precedent” for the Administration to adopt. Throughout the time that he was running for President, it was clear that Trump really didn’t care whether the claims that he made during the course of his campaign speeches, whether it was about crimes committed by undocumented immigrants or the state of the War On Terror or virtually any other issue, were true or not. Moreover, it also quickly became clear that his hard core base of supporters either didn’t care about such misrepresentations of the truth or simply refused to listen to any argument that contradicted that Trump made during his largely stream of consciousness stump speeches, debate appearances, or media interviews .Time after time, fact checkers at The Washington Post and elsewhere in the media would point out that something Trump had claimed was in fact utterly false, and time after time his supporters would brush it off as the claims of a “biased media” distorting what they believed to be the truth, which just so happened to coincide with whatever bizarre claims were coming out of Trump’s mouth at any given point in time. Given that this is how he ran his campaign, it’s not at all surprising or strange that President Trump has started out his time in office in the same manner and that one of his top adviser would come up with the positively Stalinist concept of “alternative facts” to justify the fact that both the President of the United States and his chief press spokesman found it so easily to tell bald faced lies just hours after the President took the Oath Of Office.

Last night, though, Conway came up with a new set of “alternative facts” to justify the travel ban imposed by the Executive Order that the President signed last Friday:

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.

The Bowling Green massacre didn’t get covered because it didn’t happen. There has never been a terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Ky., carried out by Iraqi refugees or anyone else.

Here’s the video:

There was, of course, no massacre or terrorist attack of any kind in Bowling Green, Kentucky (or Bowling Green, Ohio for that matter unless Conway was referring to the 67 point September 2016 defeat of Bowling Green University by the Ohio State Buckeyes). This morning, Conway says that she was misspoke and that she was referring to a case from six years ago involving two Iraqi refugees who were caught in an FBI sting operation attempting to raise money to send overseas for the purpose of providing arms to terrorist cells in their home country. That story was last in the news in 2013 when the two men were sentenced and the FBI announced that their arrest had led to the discovery of additional al Qaeda supporters in the United States, all of whom were arrested prior to being about to carry out any attack. Her point, she claims, was that what happened in Bowling Green was evidence in support of both banning travel from Iraq and six other majority Muslim nations and essentially halting the acceptance of refugees into the country for now. The problem with that argument, of course is that two men out of the thousands of refugees, immigrants, and visitors that the United States has let in the country from Muslim nations over the last decade or more is hardly a sign of a serious problem and hardly a justification for the kind of blanket ban that Trump imposed last week. Moreover, the ease with which Conway cited an event that never occurred in support of her argument during the interview last night shows yet again the fast and loose relationship that the Trump campaign has had with the truth from the very start. As I said in the wake of the lies about Inaugural crowd size, if we can’t trust the Administration on the small stuff what can we trust it on?

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. al-Ameda says:

    Kids, don’t even attempt to write fiction, reality is pre-emptively stealing all of your material.

    Honestly, what is it with this crew?
    Is it hubris?

    Do they assume that their base is both stupid and apathetic, that they will support the Administration no matter what?

    I understand that both Spicer and Conway have difficult jobs to do, but .. have they shelved their intelligence temporarily, or are they actually in far over their heads?

  2. Pch101 says:

    This helps to illustrate why the attorney general took a stand against the executive order: It will not be possible to intelligently defend it in a lawsuit.

    It’s an unlawful order because it is based upon bulls**t. The section of the INA law that was used to support the order was a direct response to that 2011 Kentucky incident, and the issues that were identified because of that incident were addressed years ago. He may as well argue that it would be appropriate to bomb Japan today because of Pearl Harbor.

    Trump’s appeals to bigotry on the campaign trail will bite his attorneys in the backside when the plaintiffs demonstrate that the executive order was motivated by racism, racism and racism, not necessarily in that order. They may lie to the public without regard for the truth, but good luck pulling that kind of stunt in a courtroom.

  3. CSK says:

    Question for D. Mataconis, Esq.: Kellyanne Conway and several other Trump-enablers have recently claimed that “alternative facts” is a valid legal term used constantly by lawyers. Is this true?


    The assumption that Trump can lie about anything and his base either won’t care or dismiss the lie as the invention of the “enemedia” is a very reasonable one. Take a look at any pro-Trump website.

  4. Erik says:

    One solution: stop inviting people from the administration on to your program if they lie, and make it clear that is the reason, publicly. Or, alternatively, since these news organizations seem to need these people on, introduce them by reminding the audience that last time they lied about [insert latest lie here]. Then at least there is ongoing cost when they lie and it helps the listeners to put anything new they say in proper context.

  5. reid says:

    Lie? Whatever. You do what it takes to make the sale, then you move on.

    Calling out the blatant lies is good. But I wish people had started this sooner. It’s as if the lying had to reach an utterly ridiculous level before the media was willing to address it. I know that I thought Romney was lying a lot when he ran five years ago. It wasn’t to the same degree as today, of course, but it was disturbing at the time. I seem to recall Palin making up a lot of nasty falsehoods, too. All of it is past the point of “spin”, and the indecency of it is disappointing. I guess I expect too much from my fellow humans, and I include in that the people that overlook it because it’s from their team.

    P.S. Yeah, I know the “left” does some of this, but the “right” seems much worse. Even the mainstream right.

  6. Mikey says:


    Honestly, what is it with this crew?
    Is it hubris?

    Pretty simple: they do it because they can.

    Not only has the endless stream of vapid, blatant lies not cost them anything, it won them the Presidency.

    They’d be stupid to stop now.

  7. Moosebreath says:

    And in a bit of epic trolling, there’s a site to collect donations for the victims’ families.

  8. Moosebreath says:


    “Not only has the endless stream of vapid, blatant lies not cost them anything, it won them the Presidency.”

    A thousand times this. And if we get our country back after the Trump Presidency, the next time a Republican claims to the be party of moral values, the only proper response would be to point and laugh.

  9. ...ign'int cracker says:

    A quip from the past seems appropriate to use in handling this administration

    Every word the man says is a lie, including “a,” “an,’ and “the.”

  10. C. Clavin says:

    The entire Presidency is based on lies…only about 15% of what the man says is true.

  11. Kevin says:
  12. @CSK:

    I have never heard the phrase “alternative facts” used in a courtroom personally so I have no idea what any person making that claim is referring to.

    There is something called “pleading in the alternative” in which a lawyer will raise alternative, and sometimes seemingly contradictory arguments in the context of a lawsuit but those are generally always based on the same set of facts that have either already been established on the record or which can be backed up by available or expected evidence or testimony. As an example without getting too far into the weeds of legal practice, I was once involved in a series of cases involving home construction in which the Plaintiff’s arguments raised claims for both Breach of Contract and Negligence. Ordinarily, you cannot recover for both types of claims at the same time but the reason for raising both claims at the beginning of a lawsuit is to protect the clients interests in case you’re unable to make a sufficient case under one theory but have sufficient facts to make a case under the other. Failure to do this at the start can be fatal because the further you get into a lawsuit the harder it becomes to get a Court to grant you leave to amend your Complaint, and because failure to raise a claim before the Statute of Limitations expires would be malpractice.

    But actually arguing contradictory facts? You’d be laughed out of court.

  13. Kevin says:
  14. Neil Hudelson says:


    Check out where those donations are going to. It’s an excellent bit of trolling.

  15. CSK says:


    Yes, because it’s sooooooooo easy to confuse the word “massacre” with the word “terrorists.”

    Even the guy writing this apologia admits that Conway should have gotten her story straight before blurting out about nonsense about a non-existent massacre.

  16. Kevin says:
  17. Kevin says:

    You can’t even see your hatred coming through. Take a step back.

  18. Lit3Bolt says:


    Ahhh, the conservative principle of “some Dem somewhere at sometime lied once” so therefore my side is completely justified to lie and fabricate events all the time, forever.

  19. Pch101 says:


    In the right-wing lexicon, a liberal who corrects an inaccurate or lying conservative is engaging in “hate speech.”

    These are the ignorant lunatics with whom we are dealing, folks.

  20. CSK says:


    Is this the new talking point: “Seeing through my hatred”? I see it repeated, mantra-like, quite often by Trump admirers. And weren’t all critics of Sarah Palin described as “haters”?

  21. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Remember, too, that all of his cabinet nominees where caught in lies.
    Dark days are upon the Republic…

  22. An Interested Party says:

    You can’t even see your hatred coming through. Take a step back.

    Well we can certainly see your spin coming through, so take a step back and take it elsewhere, no one’s buying it…

  23. grumpy realist says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I vaguely remember that Illinois has something like this. You had better do your pleading in the alternative from the start, because you don’t get to amend your pleadings to incorporate new theories later.

    Another of the “you snooze, you lose” constraints. Although this probably got started because judges got ticked off at continual churning and additions of new arguments when older arguments failed.

  24. al-Ameda says:


    You can’t even see your hatred coming through. Take a step back.

    I don’t Hate Kellyann or Sean, they’re just doing their jobs.

  25. HarvardLaw92 says:


    I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but we tend to make substantive arguments here. If all you have to offer is drive-by link bombing, please seek joy among your fellow Imhotep’ers on the book of faces.

  26. reid says:

    @Kevin: Are you kidding?! Trump and his henchmen have lied, maliciously, for years like other people breathe air. Enough is enough. It’s disgusting. If you had any decency yourself, you’d admit it and not defend it.

  27. Mikey says:

    @reid: He’s not here to defend anything, he’s just trying to divert by engaging in whataboutism.

  28. reid says:

    @Mikey: Indeed. One more mark in the “disappointing human” column….

  29. Jeremy R says:

    The media really needs to make a bigger deal about the scale and frequency of the lies and obfuscation this administration gets them to report on. When news outlets repeat monumentally misleading statements, like the claims that only 109 were inconvenienced by Trump’s immigration order, it’s their own credibility the ends up damaged when the truth starts to trickle out:

  30. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I believe that this is a nice piece of misdirection to stop people from talking about the Mosque Fire in Texas and the Mosque Shooting up in Quebec.

    Both actions are counterfactuals to the stated need for the Muslim ban, so they need to be forgotten as quickly as possible.

  31. yagain says:

    I bet it was a mangled reference to this attack on a different Southern college campus:

  32. MarkedMan says:


    please seek joy among your fellow Imhotep’ers on the book of faces.

    Ok, I get the Facebook reference but what does Imhotep have to do with anything?

  33. Scott says:

    @MarkedMan: I think it is a reference to the movie “The Mummy”.

  34. dxq says:

    Honestly, what is it with this crew?
    Is it hubris?

    The public has an appetite for anti-intellectualism that has gone unsatisfied in the past, because of media gatekeepers, mixed parties, and so on. But now that anti-intellectualism has concentrated into one political party, communicates by its own media channels, and is being heavily funded, it’s unleashed. Trump is the culmination of anti-intellectualism.

  35. Bob@Youngstown says:

    Best reference I’ve heard… comparing Conway with “human chaff” (as in countermeasures employed to deflect incoming missiles or torpedoes).

  36. Kevin says:
  37. Kevin says:


    Ya right you just have opinions not facts.

    Where were you when the serial liar was actually hurting this country? Hillary.

  38. Blue Galangal says:

    @al-Ameda: Go read the comments on any USA Today article (c.f. the one about the Navy SEALs flying a Trump flag in KY) and you’ll see exactly what his base thinks of his lies. Which is to say, not at all.

  39. CSK says:


    Kevin, a word of advice: Do not, I repeat do not cite The Gateway Pundit if you expect to be taken seriously by anyone. And I speak not just for Democrats, but for non-Trump-addled Republicans and Libertarians as well.

    Last summer Hoft went wild predicting an uprising by black people in major cities at precisely 7:30 p.m. Guess what his very solid, substantial, and entirely credible source for this was? A single anonymous email–that was two years old. Apparently he never noticed the date.

    Are these people ever embarrassed?

  40. CSK says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Thanks, Doug. I appreciate the time you took to answer my query.

  41. Gustopher says:

    The stupid, it burns. The goggles do nothing, etc.

    There’s not a lot to say here other than it is a shame that the President’s closest advisors do not have a firm grasp on the facts.

  42. al-Ameda says:

    Kevin, be useful, perhaps you could go find out if Hillary is still running that child sex slave operation out of that pizzeria in Washington DC? The Trump Administration seems to be doing nothing about it.

  43. Franklin says:

    I think she should have been more contrite about this. But honestly, my gut feeling is that the massacre/terrorist switch was just a brain fart, akin to Hillary’s sniper fire. Conway had little to gain by being so obviously mistaken, in my opinion.

    Again, though, I think she should have really owned up to it rather than brushing it off as a simple mistake.

  44. Mikey says:

    @Franklin: The thing is, when people have been caught out in so many lies, even a brain fart is perceived as another lie.

    Not that her excuse flies either way, but still.

  45. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    And things keep getting worse on the Travel Ban front:

    Iranian baby’s life saving surgery threatened by Travel Ban

  46. CSK says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    I think you may be missing the point that Trump and his Trumpkins don’t give two flying fwcks about this baby. She’s a raghead who’ll just grow up to be a terrorist, after all.

  47. george says:

    I don’t see what the problem is: there’s no other word for a 77-10 game but massacre. The imaginary terrorist attack was probably some sort of false memory caused the PTSD from that game.

  48. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Aka an army of braindead zombies all chanting the same bullshit

  49. Concerned UK Citizen says:

    You really couldn’t make this up (even though she did!!)

    To use a non existent event to justify the unjustifiable………..then she has the nerve to say that’s not what she meant.

    Does she still not understand that, as the POTUS’s Senior Counsellor, IT’S HER JOB TO SAY WHAT SHE MEANS!!!!!

    She, and the rest of “Don-iarrhoea” Trump’s band of vagabonds should be run out of town!!!!