Learning Search

Finding Kellyanne Conway’s Bowling Green Massacre

This evening, Kellyanne Conway talked about a “Bowling Green Massacre” in an interview with Chris Matthews. Here’s what she said as quoted by The Daily Beast:

“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 they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre,” Conway said during an exchange on the program. “Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”

When I heard that, I got really confused, because if there’s anything that our news outlets here in America will cover, it’s a massacre or any kind of mayhem. So I thought that was off. At the same time, it seemed such an unusual thing to make up out of whole cloth. Bowling Green? I’m sure it’s a lovely place (actually every place I’ve been to in Kentucky is beautiful) but it’s not a metro area that pops to the front of your mind.

So I went digging.

If you search Google for “Bowling Green Massacre” you will find odd pointers in online discussion forums and an apparent haunted house. I did not find any news stories. So I started gathering.

If you read my book Web Search Garage, you know it’s a collection of principles for better searching. One of them is called The Principle of Every Scrap; you can read about it here a little bit; unfortunately I think it’s out of print but I’d probably still get in trouble if I tried to post it.

Anyway, the Principle of Every Scrap states that you hang on to all the little bits of information that you come across as you’re putting a search together, because you never know what’s going to steer you in the right direction.

What was I finding? Mentions of 1998 in discussion boards. “Bowling Green State University” being mentioned far more often than “Bowling Green”. Haunted houses. Halloween?

I started taking these bits of data and trying them in different combinations along with Google’s full-word wildcard, which doesn’t work like it used to but still comes in handy. And eventually I found an article from the Kent State University student newspaper archive.

screenshot 2017 02 02 at 9 38 29 pm

So there was a rumor of a Halloween massacre at Bowling Green State University along with other universities, and that was it. A rumor.

But it didn’t make sense. Why Bowling Green? I restarted my search, left out “massacre” and put in Iraqis. And almost immediately found this article from 2011, in which two Iraqis were arrested in Bowling Green for plotting terrorist attacks.

So two Iraqis were arrested in Bowling Green for plotting attacks. I thought maybe Ms. Conway got confused and mixed up an urban legend from 1998 with an incident that occurred much later.

But that doesn’t really work either, because this is what Ms. Conway said:

“two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre”

And here is what the article says:

screenshot 2017 02 02 at 10 44 19 pm


There is an urban legend of a “Bowling Green State University Massacre” that goes back to at least 1998.

Two Iraqis were arrested in Bowling Green in 2011 for plotting terrorist activities.

They were not charged with plotting attacks on American soil, and as the article notes, the charges were about things they did while in Iraq.

Ms. Conway is very busy and has a lot to do, but if there are additional news stories to be considered that I did not find during my searches and she cares to bring them to my attention, I will be happy to update this post.

Update: Ms. Conway is indicating she misspoke. She was referring to the two Iraqis who were arrested and meant “terrorists” when she said “massacre”.

23 replies »

  1. You rock! Thngs that are 1.5 decades apart were somehow the same thing in this lady’s mind? Probably someone told her that, and she said that’s a great sound bite so we’ll run with it.

  2. So it seems like everyone in the media tries to get the news the best quickest gotcha and you make one little mistake and all you sore losers out there jump on it like a puppy dog this bleeding y’all need to go to hell and visit your family

    • its mistakes like this that set in motion events that get people killed. when you speak for the most powerful position on the planet you better have your shit together.

    • Yep, and you make the same mistake several times, on different media, and then you pretend that you made a mistake when they pointed out to you…

  3. Tara:

    Thank you for going to the trouble of getting the facts on this matter, and once again teaching how to improve and follow through on searches.

    Pam Rolph

  4. Really?? BGSU is in Ohio. The Bowling Green where the two Iraqis were arrested (no, they did not massacre anyone) is in KENTUCKY. The towns share a name, and Kellyanne Conway is a moron, ask Frederick Douglass, that’s what they have in common. How did you manage to screw up this story?

    • She said “Bowling Green Massacre”. She did not say “Bowling Green, Kentucky Massacre”. I went looking for new stories for over an hour and this and various urban legend mentions (which were not as authoritative as a student newspaper) were the closest I could find to a mention of a “Bowling Green Massacre.”

  5. I started googling also, was this a completely made up lie? Or based on something… then I found your article, you’ve already done the research!
    I do think she literally just says whatever she can think of at the time and as soon as she said Bowling Green, she realised she was gonna get caught and tried to cover with ‘you haven’t heard of it because it wasn’t covered’ in the media….
    I did start by google mapping Bowling Green and landed in Kentucky before here. Either way it’s Spin Doctor nonsense. Anyone who says otherwise is either on crack or really doesn’t like to admit they’re wrong.

  6. If anyone has access to LexisNexis, then you may find articles in 2011 that discuss the increased security scrutiny that occurred due to the two individuals from Iraq who were found to have links to terrorism in Bowling Green, KY. In one such article, dated 12/29/2011, titled “Highlights of U.S. Broadcast Coverage of the Middle East, published by the Federal News Service,” interview panelist, Trudy Rubin, foreign affairs columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer is quoted “RUBIN: First of all, I was told by senior White House sources there are Page 4 Highlights of U.S. Broadcast Coverage of the Middle East from Wednesday, December 29, 2011 Federal News Service December 29, 2011 Thursday 1,500 Iraqis who have totally gone through all the paperwork, the interviews for the SIV process — that’s the special visa process — they are pending. They are being held up for new security checks, even though many of them worked for the military and have already been vetted many times over. I have also seen official figures that there are nearly 15,000 in the pipeline. These are Iraqis who worked for us who never left the country. Many of the refugees who were admitted under the programs that Eric spoke of are people who fled to Syria, to Jordan. These Iraqis stayed in Iraq. They were working for us. They were helping us. And as a tribute to them, many military officers are desperately still trying to get their interpreters and their families out. I get slews of email for them. So this is a very real problem. And there is a second program for Iraqis who worked for us in Baghdad. And there are 39,000 people, including family members, in that pipeline. So there are a lot of people who worked for us to whom we promised visas, and they are not getting them because of new security checks that are due to an incident in May when two Iraqis in Kentucky who did not work for Americans, never worked for them, were found to have terrorist connections. But the new security checks are blocking everyone. And that is why things are frozen.”

    Perhaps all fact checkers should quit patting themselves on the back for doing such a great job “reporting the truth” and actually seek the truth. Your research is as good as when you stop. Any good researcher knows this.

    • Katherine, I have no interest in any back patting. As I noted in the article, there were two Iraqis arrested. They were arrested for activities which did not involve attacks on American soil.

      There was no Bowling Green Massacre. If you have information to the contrary please provide it and I will update this post.

    • Katherine, I watched this interview. I am 62. You argument
      does not address the blantant lie, yes, lie, there was a massacre at Bowling Green.

      The verbage was clear. Her intent was clear. She was insistent. And she lied.

      Massacre by Websters definition is-“the act or an instance of killing a number of usually helpless or unresisting human beings under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty “

      • My post was to address that there WAS a restriction on immigrants from Iraq (under the Obama administration) as a result of the two individuals in Bowling Green, KY who were found to be connected to terrorism.

        I wasn’t trying to refute anything that Kellyanne Conway may or may not have said. I understand that there are many people who are upset over the election…but it doesn’t change the fact that we should always strive to seek the truth. Too many take what is being reported in the news as fact without expending the energy to verify what is true and what is not.

        Thanks for educating me on what the word Massacre means…I wasn’t already aware of that. 😉

    • So… 2 individuals from Iraq were found to have links to terrorism in Bowling Green, KY in 2011. Where is the MASSACRE part of your story?

      Ms. Conway specifically referred to a Bowling Green Massacre — and then she said that no one has heard about it because it wasn’t reported.

      Now Ms. Conway, Trump’s spokesperson says she MEANT to say terrorists and not massacre. ….

      I am NOT buying that.

      Has Ms, Conway’s been shooting herself in the foot so often prosthetics manufacturers can’t keep up? Or is this a concerted plan to influence the ill-informed base.

      They know the trump base will believe anything they say, and when the media says “there was no massacre,” much of the base will choose to believe there was a massacre and the media just doesn’t want to admit it.

  7. Why the sudden political slant? I think there’s enough of this everywhere else. Honestly, I do not follow RB for the politics!

    • I wrote it up because it was an interesting search exercise.


      I promise you I will try to keep it to a minimum. And I do apologize.

      • I am new to this site. Any & all individuals who seek empirical data due service to their fellows no matter the topic.

        A side bar-marriage, religion, friendships, literature, families, work, ( I could continue for sometime), are all political. It is part & parcel of the human condition. Mathematics being perhaps the only exception…

  8. I agree with what Pam Rolph said: I appreciate Tara looking for the complex truth, and teaching us how to do so.
    She is being loyal to her mission, and it is a good mission.

  9. 6 months ago a right wing christian was screaming at me about terrorist attacks in bowling green kentucky. She blamed the liberal press for not reporting it. She screeched “Don’t you watch BreibartNews?”, which I never heard of. The question is where the story originated.

Leave a Reply