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‘You Don’t Think That Was A Mistake?’: Don Lemon Confronts Biden Spox On Chinese Spy Balloon

  CNN anchor Don Lemon confronted White House communications director Kate Bedingfield on the timeline of shooting down the Chinese surveill...

 CNN anchor Don Lemon confronted White House communications director Kate Bedingfield on the timeline of shooting down the Chinese surveillance balloon.

The U.S. military shot down the Chinese surveillance balloon with an F-22 fighter jet Saturday over the shores of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, discovering its existence several days before. President Joe Biden was first briefed on the balloon Tuesday and had been advised not to order for its destruction give the potential risk to civilians on the ground.

Bedingfield told Lemon that the balloon has not changed U.S. foreign policy with China and commended the administration for handling the situation “effectively and with strength.” She said the delay in shooting down the balloon gave the administration and the military the ability to access intelligence on the Chinese.

“He’s being criticized for not shooting it down sooner,” Lemon said. “So you don’t think that that was a mistake?”

“No, because we were able to gather more intelligence and more information, we were able to collect back on the balloon,” she responded. “We know more about Chinese capabilities and tradecraft as a result of that decision and then, we ultimately shot it down and sent a direct message to China that it was unacceptable.”

Bedingfield echoed the Department of Defense’s (DOD) explanation, whI h said it analyzed the balloon for several days and learned of China’s surveillance methods from the debris recovered from the water following its destruction. The Pentagon suspected the balloon spied on “strategic sites” in the U.S. and thus was closely analyzed by the DOD.

Republicans criticized the Biden administration for the delay in shooting down the balloon. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton told “Fox News Sunday” that the DOD “should never have allowed” the balloon to transit across the entire continental U.S., while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said China sent a message that it can freely do what it wants without a rapid response from the U.S.

“It’s not just the balloon,” Sen. Marco Rubio told CNN. “It’s the message they are trying to send the world: ‘We can do whatever we want and America can’t stop us.’”

“I think this entire episode telegraphed weakness to [President] Xi [Jinping] and the Chinese government,” Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

China’s foreign ministry confirmed that the balloon belonged to its government and told the U.S. government it was solely used for meteorological purposes, not for spying. Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder disputed this claim, saying the Chinese launched the balloon for “surveillance” reasons. 

The military said the balloon did pose an immediate threat to American civilians and did not provide the Chinese government any advantage.

China launched three balloons over the U.S. at least three times during former President Donald Trump’s administration for a shorter period of time and once in the early days of the Biden administration. One flew across Hawaii and Florida in 2019 at an altitude of 65,000 feet.

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