‘Hot air’: Marjorie Taylor Greene in State of the Union balloon stunt
Marjorie Taylor Greene appeared to tee up a State of the Union stunt on Tuesday, patrolling the halls of Congress with a large white balloon in reference to Republican criticism of Joe Biden over his handling of a flight over US territory by a Chinese surveillance dirigible.
Related: Now the Chinese ‘spy balloon’ is down, the question is: what was it for?
“Just an innocent white balloon everybody,” the Georgia extremist said, hours before Biden’s address to Congress, attempting to keep aloft the balloon saga which ended when it was shot down off the Carolinas on Saturday.
Greene did not discuss the Pentagon disclosure that three Chinese balloons passed over the US during the presidency of Donald Trump, only for the Trump administration to fail to spot them.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters earlier improvements to surveillance under Biden “enhanced our capacity to be able to detect things that the Trump administration was unable to detect”.
Greene’s promenade with a balloon prompted widespread criticism.
Bonnie Watson Coleman, a New Jersey Democrat, said: “She has to do something with all that hot air.”
But Greene is nothing if not a dedicated conspiracy theorist and controversialist. Elected in 2020, she was ejected from committees for threatening behaviour in 2021 but last month restored to key panels as an ally of Kevin McCarthy, the new Republican speaker.
President Biden: "Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset. I'm not saying it's the majority."
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene: "Liar!" pic.twitter.com/OFUglFuBxC
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 8, 2023
US officials have explained that Biden wanted to shoot the balloon down three days before it was eventually popped with a missile, but was persuaded not to order the operation while it was over land, and might cause injury or destruction on the ground when brought down.
China claims the balloon was for civilian meteorological research. Its downing stoked a confrontation with Beijing, as Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, cancelled a trip for talks.
McCarthy – who has recently praised Greene – reportedly told Republicans not to plan any stunts in response to Biden’s speech.
Greene did not have her balloon with her in the chamber. But she did make her mark when Biden accused Republicans of threatening social security and Medicare.
“Liar!” Greene was seen to shout.