Fact check: False claim Biden asked Chinese president for permission to down spy balloon

The claim: Biden asked China for permission to shoot down spy balloon

A Feb. 4 Facebook post (direct link, archive link) purportedly explains President Joe Biden's recent decision to shoot down a Chinese spy balloon.

"The Chinese Balloon has been shot down after Biden called the Chinese President and asked for his permission to shoot it down," reads the post.

The post is from Terrence K. Williams, a comedian, but commenters took the claim seriously and reacted accordingly. It was shared more than 400 times in 10 days.

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Our rating: False

There is no evidence Biden asked Chinese President Xi Jinping for permission to shoot down the balloon. A spokesperson for the White House told USA TODAY the claim was false.

Biden didn't ask China for permission to down balloon, White House says

In early February, a large Chinese balloon suspected of conducting surveillance drifted across a huge swath of the U.S., from Montana to the Carolinas.

A fighter jet fired a single air-to-air missile and hit the balloon on Feb. 4, as USA TODAY previously reported. At the time, the balloon was flying at about 65,000 feet and was six miles off the South Carolina coast. The incident was caught on video.

China 'knew' what it was doing with spy balloon
China 'knew' what it was doing with spy balloon

There are no credible reports that Biden asked Jinping for permission before downing the balloon.

"This is false," Andrew Bates, a White House spokesperson, told USA TODAY.

Biden had ordered that the balloon be shot down days earlier, but officials worried about debris harming people on the ground. He explained his decision-making process while taking questions from reporters days after the balloon was taken down.

Fact check: False claim a vigilante shot down the Chinese spy balloon

"Once (the balloon) came into the United States from Canada, I told the Defense Department I wanted to shoot it down as soon as it was appropriate," Biden said. "They concluded we should not shoot it down over land, it was not a serious threat and we should wait until we got across the water."

China claimed the object was a weather balloon thrown off course, but State Department officials have said it carried devices used to intercept sensitive communications. The situation prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a planned trip to China.

USA TODAY reached out to Williams for comment.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: No, Biden didn't ask China for permission to down balloon