‘Why Did The US Not Shoot It Down Then?’: Tapper Grills Buttigieg On Why Admin Waited So Long To Shoot Balloon Down

[Screenshot CNN State of the Union]

Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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CNN’s Jake Tapper grilled Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg on Sunday about why it took so long for the Biden administration to shoot down the Chinese surveillance balloon while on “State of the Union.”

After several days of hovering above several highly sensitive sites, including over Montana, home to the Malmstrom Air Force Base which houses Minuteman III nuclear missiles, officials shot down the balloon Saturday afternoon. The Pentagon was tracking the balloon as it headed eastward over the Carolinas before hovering above the Atlantic Ocean. U.S. military jets were seen flying near the balloon with several recovery vessels in the water below. President Joe Biden ordered the Pentagon to take the balloon down but authorities recommended against it, warning that falling debris could possibly injure those on the ground below.

“This suspected Chinese spy balloon entered U.S. airspace eight days ago, two Saturday’s ago in Alaska,” Tapper said. “Once it became clear this was not an accident, why did the U.S. not shoot it down then?”

“The president gave instructions to have it handled,” Buttigieg said,”to have it shot down in a way that was safe. As you may have seen, there’s reporting now that the debris field that was created by this balloon when it was shot down was about seven miles long. Any time the military is considering an operation like that, they have to consider the safety of the American people.” (RELATED: Buttigieg Says You ‘Can’t Argue’ When It Comes To Biden’s Accomplishments)

“Obviously that’s great that there were no Americans hurt by this, but is it acceptable that there were eight days that the spy balloon was over the United States, then Canada, then again over the United States from Idaho, Montana, all the way through to the Carolinas day after day?” Tapper pushed back.

“As the U.S. communicated, it’s not acceptable at all that China sent this object into our airspace. In terms of how to handle it, that’s something that was done based on assessment of the risks, making sure that there was no risk that outweighed the risks in terms of any damage that would come,” Buttigieg said. “It was handled appropriately.”

The Department of Defense later said that waiting to take down the balloon “actually provided us a number of days to analyze this balloon, and through a number of means.”