‘Shoot. It. Down.’ How Washington Freaked Out About the Chinese Spy Balloon

Photo:  AP/Getty/Gizmodo (Getty Images)
Photo: AP/Getty/Gizmodo (Getty Images)

Late Thursday night, a giant, mysterious balloon floated over the United States, apparently by way of the Pacific Ocean all the way to sensitive air space in Montana.

On Friday, the Chinese government said the floating thing was not a spy balloon—honestly, fair, because the Pentagon said such an aircraft would have little intelligence gathering value—but rather a “civilian airship” meant for meteorological research that had gone way, way, way, incredibly off course.

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“The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into U.S. airspace due to force majeure,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

President Joe Biden elected not to shoot it down, ostensibly out of concern for civilians on the ground in its path. Canada said it was investigating a “potential second incident.”

Everyone in the nation’s capital was up in arms. Click through to see how they freaked out.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken

European Union flag, Apple logo
European Union flag, Apple logo

Atony Blinken, Joe Biden’s Secretary of State, was scheduled to travel to Beijing on Friday. Amid the hubbub over the not-a-spy-balloon, he canned that trip.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene

“Look at what Joe Biden did to the sky!”
“Look at what Joe Biden did to the sky!”

The not-a-spy-balloon incensed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Her Twitter feed was frothing with rage Friday afternoon at Joe Biden, China, and the sky. She tweeted, “Biden should shoot down the Chinese spy balloon immediately. President Trump would have never tolerated this. President Trump would have never tolerated many things happening to America.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (again)

Screenshot:  Gizmodo/Blake Montgomery
Screenshot: Gizmodo/Blake Montgomery

Greene was so enraged by the balloon, she made a meme out of it. The Georgia Republican photoshopped an imagined Valentine to Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat, from Fang Fang, which is not a racist fake Chinese name that she made up, as unlikely as that might seem. Fang Fang, who also went by Christine Fang, is a suspected Chinese intelligence operative who targeted American politicians, including Swalwell.

The Pentagon

Photo:  Alex Wong (Getty Images)
Photo: Alex Wong (Getty Images)

The Department of Defense rejected China’s explanation that the balloon was meant for innocent research purposes. In a statement, a DoD official told CNN, “We are confident that this high-altitude surveillance balloon belongs to the [People’s Republic of China]. Instances of this activity have been observed over the past several years, including prior to this administration.”

The official said the military was “taking steps nevertheless to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information. We are also tracking what abilities it could have in gaining insights, and continue to monitor the balloon as it was over the continental United States.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn

Photo:  Drew Angerer (Getty Images)
Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty Images)

Blackburn, like Greene, was mad. So mad. So mad she wanted to dismantle China’s ruling party. She tweeted, “Why won’t Biden shoot down the Chinese spy balloon that is currently flying over the United States? The Chinese Communist Party is a threat to our existence.”

Sen. Josh Hawley

Photo:  Kevin Dietsch (Getty Images)
Photo: Kevin Dietsch (Getty Images)

Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley, notorious for raising his fist in support of Jan. 6 insurrectionists, demanded that the Department of Homeland Security investigate Biden’s response (read: decision not to shoot down) the not-a-spy-balloon. Why did he do this so hastily? Perhaps because he believes Biden behaved negligently. Perhaps to get coverage in Fox News.

Marjorie Taylor Greene (third time’s the charm)

Photo:  Kevin Dietsch (Getty Images)
Photo: Kevin Dietsch (Getty Images)

The QAnon queen was not one to pass up an semi-identified flying object (Greene has disavowed her past support for the QAnon conspiracy theory.)

In a third breathless tweet about the not-a-spy-balloon, she wrote, “Under Biden: Pentagon tracks Chinese Spy Balloon for days over US & does NOT shoot it down. Abandons Americans & $85 billion in US military equipment & arms in Afghanistan. Won’t secure our border- 5+ million people invade. The Biden admin is impotent.”

Rep. Jim Jordan

Photo:  Drew Angerer (Getty Images)
Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty Images)

The Ohio Republican jumped on the bandwagon with a tweet that read like the greatest hits of 2023 Republican foreign policy. The spy balloon was emblematic of everything else wrong with the Biden White House.

“Communist China:

-Steals our intellectual property

-Hurts American manufacturing

-Supplies our enemies

-Distracts Americans on TikTok

-Flies a spy balloon over our country

And what’s Joe Biden doing about it?


Donald J. Trump

Photo:  Scott Eisen (Getty Images)
Photo: Scott Eisen (Getty Images)

The former president was succinct on Truth Social: “SHOOT DOWN THE BALLOON.”

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