In a news briefing following an extraordinary three-day stretch during which President Joe Biden ordered the US military to shoot down three airborne objects, the White House made clear on Monday the many things it still did not know.
It couldn’t say for sure whether the three downed objects had surveillance capabilities. It was hard to say exactly what these objects had looked like, given how fast the fighter jets monitoring them would have been traveling. And it was still unclear where the trio of objects had originated from and to whom they belonged.
But in the briefing filled with unanswered questions, one statement from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was as definitive as anything else: The US military had not shot down any UFOs from outer space.
“There is no – again, no indication – of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent take-downs,” she said. “Wanted to make sure that the American people knew that, all of you knew that. And it was important for us to say that from here because we’ve been hearing a lot about it.”
While Jean-Pierre’s reference to extraterrestrial activity prompted laughter from some members of the White House press corps, the White House is hardly dealing with a laughing matter. Following the unprecedented move by the president to shoot down four objects in the course of roughly a week – starting with a Chinese spy balloon earlier this month – White House officials have been besieged by a torrent of incoming questions about those objects and what had prompted Biden and his top military brass to take them down.
Officials have been particularly sensitive to the inherently mysterious nature of the airborne objects, and how ripe the recent series of events was for conspiracy theories.
“Everyone wants answers that no one has at the moment,” one official said, conceding there was a risk with the void of information that conspiracies could sprout.
A determination was made that even in the absence of much concrete information that could be shared with the public about the three recently downed objects, it would be prudent to publicly rule out – as quickly as possible – the possibility of extraterrestrial activity, sources said.
There was added urgency to that consideration given that the recovery of the fallen debris – and a comprehensive analysis of what those objects might have been – is a process that officials acknowledge could take some time.
Administration officials continue to say their goal is to provide as much information as they can about the objects, but they have noted the circumstances are less than ideal for effective communication.
Biden himself has expressed a desire to be as transparent as possible about the devices with both Congress and the American public, according to officials, but the president has acknowledged that without a full picture of what the objects were, his ability to communicate on them is limited.
Meanwhile, the administration is hoping to correct the disparate information flow from over the weekend, electing to have National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby brief from the White House on Monday to act as a single voice on the matter after sometimes-conflicting accounts emerged from the Pentagon and members of Congress.
One lawmaker who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee had told CNN on Monday that it would be prudent for Biden to directly address the public, particularly given that the situation was ripe for conspiracy theories.
“Ambiguity is fuel for conspiracy theorists, and I hope information is shared expeditiously,” the lawmaker had said.