The White House attempted to shut down chatter on Monday that the aerial objects found flying over U.S. airspace may have ties to extraterrestrial life.
Speaking from the White House podium, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said she wanted people to hear straight from President Joe Biden’s administration that alien involvement with these incidents is not a working theory.
“I know there have been questions and concerns about this, but there is no ― again, no ― indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns,” she said, referring to authorities shooting down four high-altitude objects, including a suspected Chinese spy balloon, over North American airspace this month.
“It was important for us to say that from here, because we’ve been hearing a lot about it,” Jean-Pierre said, then joked: “I loved ‘E.T.’ the movie, but I’m just going to leave it there.”
Some seized on the idea that the flying objects, which have varied in size and scope, may have extraterrestrial origins after a reporter asked Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of the Air Force’s Northern Command, at a Sunday news conference if his team had ruled out alien ties.
“I haven’t ruled out anything at this point,” he responded.
The remark inspired a flurry of headlines, including one from Fox News asking “Could aliens be source of mysterious ‘objects’?”
But national security officials, in addition to the White House, later tamped down that speculation. Several officials who spoke to The New York Times said none of them believe these objects “are anything other than devices fashioned here on Earth.”
U.S. defense officials said the objects needed to be shut down because they posed a threat to civilian aircraft. But they’re also on high alert after finding that the first object ― a 200-foot balloon off the coast of South Carolina ― was likely a spy device from the Chinese military. Biden’s administration later said that China is likely behind a fleet of surveillance balloons targeting more than 40 countries and that the high-tech objects are capable of collecting communication signals and other sensitive information.
Chinese officials deny that the initial balloon was a spy device and maintain it was simply a civilian meteorological airship that had blown off course. They have also refused a meeting between U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Chinese counterpart to discuss the incident.
The second, third and fourth objects shot down were all much smaller and were flying at lower altitudes than the initial balloon object. Because they were largely destroyed when fighter jets shot them down, authorities are still piecing together information about them to share with the public.