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White House weighs possibility of Biden addressing UFOs

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White House aides are weighing whether to have President Biden address the public about a series of unidentified flying objects that were shot down by the U.S. military in recent days, according to an official familiar with the conversations.

Biden has faced an onslaught of criticisms by Republicans in particular who have said the president needs to be more communicative with the public about the issue, particularly after three separate unknown aerial objects were shot down three days in a row last weekend.

One White House official said there has been growing chatter in the building about Biden addressing the issue at some point, possibly this week before he leaves the country for Poland on Monday.

But the White House and its allies also believe there is little to gain from rushing Biden out when officials are still gathering information about the weekend’s incidents, deferring instead to Pentagon officials and White House national security spokesperson John Kirby to be the public faces addressing the actions.

“To date, I think they’ve been happy about having Kirby out there fielding questions on this,” one White House ally said. “Until we know more, it’s OK to have him out there taking questions and then they’ll find the right moment for the president to address it.”

Democratic strategist Rodell Mollineau, who served as a senior communications aide to the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said he understands the calculus of not putting Biden out there on the issue yet. 

“It would be a reiteration of what’s already out there,” Mollineau said. “The question is, ‘What is the end goal and are the nerves of the American people that heightened?’ Or is this the media and some of the president’s detractors trying to elongate a story?” 

Mollineau said Biden weighing in on the issue may have an adverse effect.

“The moment he comes out — this might seem counterintuitive — it doesn’t lower anxiety, it likely heightens it,” Mollineau said. 

Kirby took questions from the White House briefing room last Friday just as news broke of an object being shot down over Alaskan airspace, and he did so again on Monday after two more objects were shot down over the weekend. 

The veteran spokesman, who previously served as press secretary at the Pentagon, held a virtual briefing with reporters on Tuesday, and he has been a frequent presence on television providing updates on what is known, and what officials are still trying to learn about the objects.

On Monday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin became the first Cabinet official to speak with reporters about the objects struck down over the weekend when he landed in Brussels for a NATO meeting. During a press briefing Tuesday alongside Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley confirmed to reporters that the first missile to target the object over Lake Huron on Sunday had missed its target.

But Biden hasn’t spoken of the objects that were shot down over the weekend, fueling criticism by some lawmakers on Capitol Hill dissatisfied with his administration’s briefings on the matters.

“The president owes the American people an explanation, direct and on camera, of what we know about these ‘objects’ and what steps he’s taking to protect American’s sovereign airspace,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said in a statement. 

Reporters have also pressed the White House at briefings this week about when Biden might address the public about the objects, noting the unusual nature of the circumstances, but officials there have been mum on the president speaking directly to the matter.

“What we’re trying to do here is provide as much information as we can,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday. “The president clearly has been briefed on a regular basis on this, on a daily basis, on what has occurred in the last 10 days or so. But I just don’t have anything to preview as to if the president is going to be speaking on this in the upcoming days.”

NBC News first reported on talks of Biden giving remarks about the downed objects.

On Tuesday, Kirby said there have been no indications thus far that the three objects shot down over the weekend were connected to a broader Chinese spy balloon program, or that they were connected to a foreign intelligence gathering effort.

Officials have been unable to collect the debris from the three objects to date because of weather conditions and where they were shot down. Two were shot down in frozen wilderness, while a third was shot down over Lake Huron.

Biden has addressed in interviews the Chinese surveillance balloon he ordered shot down over South Carolina more than a week ago after it traversed much of the U.S. He told PBS Newshour that he did not believe the balloon incident would worsen U.S.-China relations, and he told Telemundo that he did not view the balloon entering U.S. airspace as a major incursion.

But Biden has not spoken publicly about the three objects that were shot down last weekend, leading to Republican criticism about his silence on the issue.

“I think at this juncture, the president needs to talk straight up to the American people,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said on Fox News on Wednesday.

Several Democrats have said in recent days the administration could be more transparent in providing information about the recent incidents, though they have largely avoided directly criticizing Biden for not delivering remarks.

“You know, in the absence of information, people will fill that gap with anxiety and other stuff. So, I wish the administration was a little quicker to tell us everything they know,” Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on Sunday just hours before the third object was shot down.

The White House itself has had to address the potential for extraterrestrial activity after such questions rose when Pentagon officials said they wouldn’t rule it out.

“I don’t think the American people need to worry about aliens, with respect to these craft.  Period.  I don’t think there’s any more that needs to be said there,” Kirby told reporters in the briefing room this week.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) will lead a Senate investigation into why it took so long for the Defense Department to detect Chinese spy balloons that floated over the United States this month and in previous years, which has revealed embarrassing gaps in the nation’s air defense.

“We still have questions about why they didn’t discover these balloons sooner, these objects sooner,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday. “Sen. Tester is going to lead our caucus in investigating this. It’s a good question. We need to answer it.”  

Some have suggested that Biden’s decision to not address the issue in public could leave an opening for lawmakers and commentators to fill the void with unconfirmed information that just makes the problem worse.

“It’s human nature to have some fear of the unknown,” Mollineau said. 

But, he added, “Lawmakers are taking advantage of this situation to stoke fear and anxiety and perpetuate conspiracy theories. I think those that are trying to use this for their own purposes aren’t making this any easier.” 


Source: The Hill

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