The fallout over the Biden administration allowing a Chinese spy balloon to fly unmolested over the United States and sensitive military installations continued Monday morning, so it fell on the “big three” broadcast networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC to hail the White House for “strenuously” “pushing back hard” against such concerns. As such, they fretted Republicans made this a “political controversy” when every ounce of ire should be on China.
ABC’s Good Morning America was unsurprising in its spin. After reports on the shoot down and recover efforts from Martha Raddatz (who said Team Biden “fac[ed] political blowback” for the wait) then Elwyn Lopez, co-host and former Clinton official George Stephanopoulos tossed to senior White House correspondent Mary Bruce: “How is the White House responding to this various criticism about allowing the spy balloon to cross the U.S.?”
Bruce, whose consistently pro-Biden spin should put her on any shortlist of journalists to replace Karine Jean-Pierre, boasted that “the White House this morning is pushing back hard” and “defending the President's decision to act when he did,” because “he was briefed on this on Tuesday after the aircraft re-entered the U.S., and that he immediately ordered that all sensitive sites be protected.”
Well, that settles things, right?
Bruce trumpeted the “real vigorous debate” in the White House, sharing their talking points that they waited to shoot so it “could be done safely” to “minimize and limit the risk to the public.”
As we’d see elsewhere, Bruce and Stephanopoulos touted the White House claims as fact that this happened on Donald Trump’s watch but he never shot them down (click “expand”):
STEVE GANYARD: There was likely an electricaloptical package where they were taking high-fidelity photographs. There could have been a signals and intelligence package where they were doing communication interceptions, but Once they get all the piece parts, they'll be able to do forensic analysis, put it back together and see just what the Chinese were doing, and what they were capable of intercepting in the U.S.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Mary, we also learned over the weekend this was not the first time that a spy balloon has crossed into U.S. territory.
BRUCE: Yeah. This has happened before, including during the Trump years when it was not made public, and this is something that the White House is pointing out as they are pushing back against their Republican critics who are arguing that they should have acted sooner, and again, they are going really out of their way to insist that the White House acted as safely as possible and acting, they say, in a way that allowed them to better understand this mission and gain the most intelligence from all of this, George.
Over on NBC’s Today, GOPers were painted as political while the administration was statesman-like. Co-host Savannah Guthrie said in a tease that “Republicans rip[ped] the President for waiting too long to act.” Meanwhile, co-host Hoda Kotb said at the onset of coverage that “Biden faces criticism from Republicans and Chinese officials.”
Chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell also blasted the GOP and peddled this false equivalency with Trump (as, even if the White House were to be taken at their word, the balloons weren’t diagnosed by the military until the current regime entered):
[T]he more immediate problem for the White House could be the political controversy as Republicans go on the attack, even though the Biden administration says China sent three balloons into U.S. air space during the Trump administration, though never for this duration.
After fretting “Republicans slammed President Biden,” Mitchell reiterated that Biden “said his military advisors did not want to risk harming civilians or damaging property with falling debris.”
Having been appointed to Biden’s Intelligence Advisory Board (which NBC didn’t disclose here), former Obama official Jeremy Bash surfaced to reassure viewers that Biden was on top of this (click “expand”):
BASH: I think we have to develop a capability to reel in those balloons when they come down. We can't wait for them to go out over water. That's too far and too long.
GUTHRIE: One of the issues and criticism coming to the White House is how do you let a balloon like that fly across the continental United States and continue whatever mission it is on? The White House says we were able to mitigate whatever kind of surveillance activity it might have been doing. How does that happen? How does that play out?
BASH: Yeah. We're good at that. We can cover things with tarps and doors and put things indoors, put aircraft in hangars. We can tell people to get off their unencrypted communications. We know how to defeat satellite surveillance, so this, I think, is routine. This is really the military's call about when it was safest to bring this down. This is about three busses worth of a payload. If you have that rain over several miles of a debris field that could hit a kindergarten, a hospital. You don't want to risk American lives for unmanned aircraft.
CBS Mornings had chief White House correspondent Nancy Cordes on the case and she had some favorable framing of her own: “[T]he White House has been strenuously arguing all weekend that waiting to shoot this balloon down was the safest thing for people on the ground...The Chinese balloon may be down now, but the political fight over it rages on.”
Cordes also brought up the Trump line, but admitted Biden officials claim the balloon flights were “discovered after the [Trump] administration left.”
Former Trump National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster bolstered the case, agreeing with co-host and Democratic donor Gayle King that the focus should be on China.
“[L]et's blame the Chinese Communist Party and stop pointing fingers at each other, right? We're on the same side,” he said in part.
Monday’s spoonfeeding of state-run spin was brought to you by advertisers such as Discover (on NBC), Jergens (on CBS), Swiffer (on ABC). Follow the links to see their contact information at the MRC’s Conservatives Fight Back page.