White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway's mention of a nonexistent "Bowling Green massacre" in an interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews is the latest "alternative fact" making the rounds. Conway morphed the 2011 indictment of two Iraqi men living in Kentucky into a full-blown terrorist attack on American soil. She also misrepresented the Obama administration's policy on Iraqi refugees, claiming they were banned rather than subjected to more extensive background checks.
The progressive media is right to point out, correct, and mock each and every lie coming out of the Trump administration—and they did, almost as soon as Conway's words were uttered Thursday night. But we should also be calling out our colleagues for being lazy and conciliatory. The real tragedy is that Chris Matthews let Kellyanne Conway walk all over him.
Sure, Matthews challenged her throughout the interview, pressuring her to acknowledge the difference between civil servants and partisan acolytes. But he also let her monologue about Iraqi terrorists in Bowling Green sail right through. Conway appears calm and confident as she describes a fake massacre and a fake Obama-era policy. If I were a rightwing Trump supporter watching that clip, I'd feel absolutely vindicated.
Whether or not Conway really meant to say "Bowling Green terrorists," in reference to the indictment of two Iraqi men living in Bowling Green, Kentucky, for using improvised explosive devices against American soldiers in Iraq, helps little; what will likely be repeated was the existence of a massacre that never happened. A clean, uninterrupted clip of Conway justifying a racist, xenophobic executive order is now ripe for dissemination.
Matthews' silence last night was an embarrassing missed opportunity. At this point, being a journalist means having your wits about you at all times—especially when you're face-to-face with one of Trump's closest confidantes who also happens to be a genius fact-manipulator. If we can't count on MSNBC to do aggressive on-the-spot fact-checking, who can we count on?