Montana Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte told Fox News on Friday that he was not briefed on the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon’s incursion into Big Sky Country airspace until it was many miles into the state.
Gianforte told “Tucker Carlson Tonight” he was not told of situation until the balloon had reached the state’s largest city, Billings – hundreds of miles from the western border at Idaho.
“It had already flown near [Malmstrom] Air Force Base and the ICBM silos. When I finally got informed, it was over our most populous city. It got spotted by a photographer at the airport,” he said.
The dirigible flew very close to Malmstrom – outside Great Falls – which Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., told Fox News houses some of the most powerful “weapons of mass destruction” in the world.
“If it was up to Montanans, this thing would have been taken out of the sky the moment it entered our sovereign airspace,” Gianforte said.
“And it’s clearly been there for a while. It’s not moving that fast.”
By later Friday evening, host Tucker Carlson reported the balloon had made it all the way to Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Gianforte told Carlson the federal government had initially contemplated “taking [the balloon] out of the sky” but decided not to.
Fox News host Jesse Watters previously made note the balloon had traveled over Alaska before reaching the Lower 48 – pointing out that the Trudeau government also appeared to take a hands-off approach when it likely crossed Canadian airspace as well.
“Clearly, this went to the president’s desk. He was given options. For whatever reason, he chose not to act. And unfortunately, the result of that is that Americans are endangered, and our enemies are emboldened,” Gianforte told Carlson.
Of the claim from the feds that firing a missile or blowing up the balloon over land could result in civilian casualties, Gianforte insisted that wouldn’t be a concern in parts of his state.
“Eastern Montana is probably one of the best places to take it down. We could have contained it. We could have found out what the mission truly was by recovering whatever electronics are on this balloon,” he said.
“If the Americans had flown a spy balloon over China, do you think you’d still be in the air? Of course not. We should have taken action. Unfortunately, we’ve emboldened our enemy today.”