Dear Commons Community,
Donald Trump’s special assistant, Kellyanne Conway, has been taking a lot of heat because of her twisting the truth regarding what she called “the Bowling Green massacre” that never occurred. Here is what Conway said:
“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 were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”
Reverend Susan Russell, an Episcopal priest, explains Conway’s problem. Here is Russell’s comments.
“In case you missed it, Kellyanne Conway of “alternative facts” fame has been trending in both social and earned media since her statement [above] on MSNBC’s Hardball.
Of course, the reason it didn’t get covered is that it didn’t happen. And the resulting blowback has included some of the most entertaining tweets and memes in recent memory. But amusing memes isn’t the point here. Accountability is. Honesty is. Fact checking is. And our democracy is.
For the record, the actual facts Ms. Conway was conflating into alternative facts were that two Iraqi nationals were arrested in Bowling Green, Kentucky in 2011 for materially supporting Al Qaeda. Both were tried and convicted ― and the resulting investigation initiated changes in ― not a ban of ― our Iraqi refugee program. The story was covered widely ― including the ABC News story Conway herself pointed to … debunking her own claim that “it didn’t get covered.”
That was then. This is now. And what I’m responding to today are the “give her a break, it was just an honest mistake” folks. Naiveté is charming in an ingénue but dangerous in both politics and governance. And if politics and governance worked like basketball, at this point Ms. Conway would have been fouled out of the game.
On February 1, I had the privilege of gathering with a standing room only crowd at Occidental College to hear the Reverend Dr. William Barber offer a stirring lecture/sermon/call to action on organizing for moral resistance to the tactics of fear based division we’re up against in this new reality.
And barely 48 hours later we saw that principle in full blown operation by his special counselor conflating a small truth into a big lie in order to frighten the American people into turning on their Muslim neighbors and capitulating to executive orders that are both immoral and unconstitutional.
This is how the Trump administration rolls … and is going to keep rolling unless we stand up and speak out and keep calling foul as often as we need to.
To reinforce that point, it is worth noting that as a result of the blowback Ms. Conway uncharacteristically issued an apology ― of sorts ― and admitted the error. You can read about that in a NYT article posted earlier today.
But here’s the deal. What is at stake here is not just getting back at someone you didn’t vote for or don’t like. What is at stake here are foundational values of our democracy.
We are a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal ― and in order continue to live into that high calling we have to be clear that all facts are not created equal and there are indeed no such things as “alternative facts.”
And taking a “small truth” about the arrest of two terrorist sympathizers and conflating it into “a massacre nobody told you about” is not an honest mistake. It is a heinous breach of trust by the special counsel to the president of the United States ― a breach that cannot, should not and is not being tolerated.
So no, Ms. Conway, you do not get the benefit of the doubt on this one. Or the next one. Or the next one. Because we’re onto you. And we’re not only not ready to make nice ― we’re not going to back down.”
Rev. Russell has it right. Conway, Trump and his spokespeople purposely conflating the facts for whatever ends is indeed a “heinous breach of trust” and dangerous for our democracy.