By Gina Cherelus
(Reuters) - A Trump administration aide corrected herself on Friday after being widely criticized for referencing a 2011 "Bowling Green massacre" in Kentucky that never occurred to defend President Donald Trump's temporary ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said in an interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews on Thursday that Trump's executive order was justified in part by the "Bowling Green massacre" of 2011. She added, "Most people don't know that because it didn't get covered."
During the interview Conway told how two Iraqis who came to the United States and were radicalized "were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre." No such event occurred.
Conway corrected herself on Friday in a post on Twitter, saying, "Honest mistakes abound."
The phrase "Bowling Green massacre" was the top trending topic on Twitter on Friday morning as thousands of social media users mocked Conway.
"Very grateful no one seriously hurt in the Louvre attack ... or the (completely fake) Bowling Green Massacre. Please don't make up attacks," tweeted Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) on Friday.
In May 2011, two Iraqi men were arrested in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and charged with attempting to send weapons and money to al Qaeda in Iraq. They admitted to using improvised explosive devices against U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
Mohanad Shareef Hammadi and Waad Ramadan Alwan pleaded guilty and were sentenced to life in prison and 40 years in prison, respectively. Prosecutors at the time said neither was charged with plotting attacks within the United States.
Conway said on Twitter that she meant to say "Bowling Green terrorists." She also slammed a network reporter for criticizing her. "NBC reporter texted me at 632am re:a diff story; never asked what I meant on @Hardball b4 slamming me on @TODAYshow Not cool, not journalism," Conway (@KellyannePolls) wrote.
On Inauguration Day, Zeke Miller, a TIME Magazine reporter, incorrectly reported that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s bust was removed from the oval office, causing an uproar on social media.
Miller (@ZekeJMiller), tweeted later that evening that the bust "was obscured by an agent and a door" and issued multiple apologies for his error.
In a similar reaction to Conway, Trump's administration responded by ripping the media for spreading fake news, with spokesman Sean Spicer describing his actions as “deliberately false reporting” during his first White House press briefing.
As "Bowling Green massacre" swept social media, a website called "The Bowling Green Massacre Fund" carrying a parody of Conway's comments surfaced on Friday.
It read, "We all still carry the vivid memories of what horrors occurred at Bowling Green, but some still relive those moments everyday as they work to rebuild a community torn apart."
Clicking on the "donate now" button on the website leads to a donation site of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The ACLU did not return calls seeking comment.
(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Toni Reinhold and James Dalgleish)