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President Joe Biden’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions hasn’t even been released yet, but that hasn’t stopped some of the most visible people on the right from quite literally making up something to be mad about.
The result: Many conservatives now wrongly believe that Biden is coming for their burgers and steaks.
“Joe Biden’s climate plan includes cutting 90% of red meat from our diets by 2030,” U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert falsely wrote in a Saturday tweet that was shared more than 4,500 times. “They want to limit us to about four pounds a year. Why doesn’t Joe stay out of my kitchen?”
The controversy began April 22, after Biden gave a speech at a virtual climate summit in which he pledged “to cut greenhouse gases in half by the end of this decade.”
The president never outlined a path or policy to get there, but conservative British tabloid The Daily Mail picked it up and speculated that reaching Biden’s emissions target would require Americans to limit their red meat consumption to four pounds per year—or one burger a month.
These numbers came from a report released by the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems, which specifically says the numbers are “reliant on a number of simplifying assumptions,” as Snopes noted. The study was also published in January 2020, a full year before Biden became president.
The University of Michigan scholars whose report kicked off the latest wave of conservative outrage stressed in a statement to VICE News Monday that “there is no connection between our study and Joe Biden's climate plan.”
“Our study merely identifies opportunities for emissions reductions that are possible from changes in our diet,” Martin Heller and Gregory Keoleian continued. “By no means does it suggest that these changes in diet would be required to meet climate goals.”
Fox News showed a graphic presenting the report’s findings as “Biden’s climate requirements” and attributing the report to the University of Michigan “Department of Agriculture,” which does not exist. And on Fox Business, former National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow reported that a “study coming out of the University of Michigan” “says that in order to meet the Biden Green New Deal Targets, America has to—get this—America has to stop eating meat.”
“Ok, got that? No burger on July 4. No steaks on the barbecue,” Kudlow said. “You can throw back a plant-based beer with your grilled Brussels sprouts and wave your American flag.” (Beer is already plant-based.)
On Monday, Fox News anchor John Roberts corrected the report on-air. “The data was accurate, but a graphic and the script incorrectly implied it was part of Biden’s plan for dealing with climate change,” Roberts said. “That is not the case.”
But for an entire weekend prior to that, high-profile Republicans ranging from Donald Trump Jr. to multiple governors and members of Congress picked up the story and spread it all over the internet.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer mocked the controversy. “Excited to be watching the Oscars with an ice cold plant-based beer,” Schumer tweeted. “Thanks Joe Biden.”
Conservative horror stories about liberal climate plans to restrict Americans’ diets are nothing new. Following the first introduction of the Green New Deal in February 2019, Republican politicians and conservative media said the plan would come for Americans’ burgers and ice cream, despite the fact that the plan did not include any such directives.
“There’s another victim of the Green New Deal: It’s ice cream,” Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso said at the time. “Say goodbye to dairy, to beef, to family farms, to ranches. American favorites like cheeseburgers and milkshakes will become a thing of the past.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with Fox’s correction.