Kellyanne Conway cites 'massacre' that didn't happen to defend Trump's immigration ban

A top aide to President Trump has cited a 2011 "massacre" in Kentucky that never happened as a reason why the administration's temporary ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations is necessary.

During an interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews that aired Thursday, Kellyanne Conway defended Trump's executive order on immigration last week by saying that former President Obama instituted a similar policy for Iraqi refugees in 2011.

"President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized, and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. Most people don't know that because it didn't get covered," Conway said.

Kellyanne Conway concedes error: 'Honest mistakes abound' »

Conway is referring to a tightening of security checks for entry into the U.S. after the May 2011 arrest of two men on charges of plotting to send weapons and money to Al Qaeda operatives waging an insurgency in their native Iraq. Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi were mistakenly admitted to the U.S. as Iraqi refugees in 2009 and resettled in Bowling Green, Ky.

Calling the Obama administration's actions a "ban" on Iraqi refugees is misleading. A formal ban wasn't announced by that administration, though there was a dramatic decline in the number of Iraqis allowed to move to the U.S. in 2011. Officials at the time cited an enhanced security clearance process for delaying Iraqi visa applications.

Alwan and Hammadi are in prison after pleading guilty. They were never accused of plotting to launch attacks inside the U.S.

Conway tweeted Friday morning that she meant to say "Bowling Green terrorists" during the interview. She hasn't, however, corrected her characterization of Obama's 2011 policy.

Conway's comments have made fodder for jokes among social media users. "Bowling Green massacre" quickly became a top trending topic on Twitter with a flurry of tweets mourning the nonexistent victims.

The website BowlingGreenMassacreFund.com appeared online Friday. A "Make a donation" link clicks through to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is fighting Trump's immigration order in court.

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UPDATES:

7:25 a.m.: This article was updated with details about the online backlash to Conway’s comments, as well as her own attempt to explain them.

This article was originally published at 5:55 a.m.

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