Mike Pence busted for bogus China spy balloon claims by CNN fact checker
Mike Pence (Photo via AFP)

During an interview about the East Palestine train derailment on Wednesday, former Vice President Mike Pence defended the Donald Trump administration's safety record by comparing the criticism to attacks they had received about the Chinese spy balloon that invaded U.S. airspace.

“They’re blaming the Trump administration. They say it’s the regulations that you peeled back that led to this lack of safety,” said anchor Martha MacCallum. To which Pence responded, “Yeah, same crowd that said that Chinese balloons floated over our administration, right – until they admitted that they didn’t.”

But as CNN fact-checkers Daniel Dale and Zachary Cohen were quick to point out on Friday morning, no one "admitted" that there were no Chinese balloon incursions during the Trump administration — and in fact, there were such incidents during the Trump administration.

"Neither the Biden administration nor the Pentagon has 'admitted' that Chinese spy balloons didn’t float over the United States during the Trump-Pence administration," they wrote. "In fact, the Biden administration and the Pentagon have said this month that Chinese spy balloons did float over the US during the Trump-Pence era. The Pentagon has briefed Congress about these suspected Trump-era incidents; former Trump administration national security officials who were briefed by the intelligence community last week have not disputed the existence of these incidents after the briefings; and CNN has viewed excerpts from a 2022 military intelligence report that said a Chinese spy balloon in 2019 'drifted past Hawaii and across Florida before continuing its journey.'"

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Former Trump National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien did claim that "nothing like" this year's incident; however, the report noted, "O’Brien did not say the Trump-era incidents didn’t happen at all. Rather, he said that 'we were not briefed during the Trump administration on this program, and most of this was discovered after we left office. Most of it quite recently.'"

A recent report indicated that officials at the Pentagon during the Trump administration were aware of at least three Chinese balloon incursions, but it never made it up to leadership, and the objects were simply classified as unidentified aerial phenomena.

Trump, who confidently proclaimed there were no Chinese spy balloon incursions on his watch, raged against these military reports on Truth Social, claiming it was "JUST FAKE DISINFORMATION!" and that "they are putting out that a Balloon was put up by China during the Trump Administration, in order to take the 'heat' off the slow moving Biden fools."