Fox corrects the record: No, Biden's climate plan didn't say anything about limiting how much red meat people eat

It was uhh-may-zing watching this story take off in populist media over the weekend, replete with repeated mentions on Fox and with comments from nationally known political figures, even though … it just wasn’t true. The misunderstanding apparently came from a Daily Mail news story about Biden’s climate plan, which set a target for reducing carbon emissions to 50-52 percent of 2005 levels by 2030. The plan didn’t delve into specifics about how to do that, though, so the Mail supplied its own suggestions. One came from a study published last year at the University of Michigan which calculated that if everyone voluntarily limited themselves to four pounds of red meat per year, America could cut its diet-based emissions by 51 percent.

Someone somewhere read that, mistook it for one of Biden’s own proposals, and an irresistible populist talking point was born.

And basically everyone got in on it, without bothering to check that it came from the the administration. Common sense: Would the president and his party really dare undercut the beef industry by asking Americans to reduce consumption by *90 percent*? Even if they wanted to, how would that play for Democrats in the midterms? How would they attempt to enforce it? It smelled like BS and it was. But it was hearty and succulent as political fare, just like a good cut of ribeye.

I’m half convinced that the Daily Mail’s interest in the Michigan story was some sort of beef industry psy op designed to freak out American conservatives and get them to eat more red meat in the name of owning the libs.

It wasn’t just populist grandstanders on Twitter pushing the claim, though. Reportedly no fewer than five different people on Fox News or Fox Business repeated it since Friday morning, including Ainsley Earhardt, Shannon Bream, and Larry Kudlow. Biden’s assault on the grand American tradition of eating beef had real legs! It just wasn’t true, as his secretary of agriculture made clear today:

“There is no effort designed to limit people’s intake of beef coming out of President Biden’s White House or USDA,” Vilsack said during a virtual briefing hosted by the North American Agricultural Journalists. “Sometimes in the political world, games get played and issues are injected into the conversation knowing full well that there’s no factual basis.”…

“There’s no desire, no effort, no press release, no policy paper — none of that — that would support the notion that the Biden administration is going to suggest that people eat less meat,” Vilsack said on Monday. “Or that USDA has some program designed to reduce meat consumption. It’s simply not the case.”

My theory of what happened here is that the Biden White House hasn’t given populists much to work with yet to gain meaningful political traction so they lunged at a topic they thought people might rally around. The border crisis is a notable exception to the trend, as is Biden’s and his party’s demagoguery of Georgia’s new election law. But most of the public’s attention has been focused on the vaccination effort and the administration’s gigantic spending bills, first with COVID relief and now infrastructure. It’s hard to galvanize opposition against any of that, particularly in a party that barely makes a pretense of caring about deficits anymore. But Dr. Seuss? The MLB pulling out of Georgia? The phantom red-meat ban? That’s good hit-you-in-the-gut culture-war material, even when it’s untrue.

Untrue for the moment, I should say. “If Biden’s climate plan doesn’t do something about meat, it’s probably going to fail,” Vox admitted in its write-up of the populist frenzy over limits on beef consumption. “Globally speaking, livestock production represents a significant portion of overall greenhouse gas emissions. The reasons for this are intrinsic to meat production itself; there is no way for humans to consume meat in the way we do without abetting catastrophic warming.” Greens may cackle at the right’s freakout over potentially having to eat less meat but their climate-change proposals all but require it in theory. It’s the environmentalist equivalent of tax hikes: Step one is to guffaw when righties insist that the middle class will end up paying for new programs, insisting that it can all be done by taxing the rich, and then to eventually tax the middle class anyway once reality starts to bite.

Anyway, John Roberts has now corrected the record on Fox’s behalf, although a fat lot of good that’ll do with the people who are motivated to believe that a “burger ban” is in the offing.

David Strom 4:41 PM on September 26, 2022