The Hamburglar? How a story about meat limits fell apart

The Hamburglar? How a story about meat limits fell apart
Posted at 11:58 AM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 11:58:22-04

NEW YORK (AP) — President Joe Biden spent only a weekend as the “Hamburglar” in the conservative media world, but the incident illustrated the speed at which a false and damaging story can spread.

The Daily Mail wrote last week about things that could potentially be in a Biden climate change plan and cited an academic study that mentioned reductions in greenhouse gases that could be achieved with limits on beef consumption.

In short order, the story was twisted by some to suggest Biden would limit people to eating one hamburger a month.

The president has made no such proposals.

The Mail’s story, by Emily Crane, was headlined “How Biden’s climate plan could limit you to eat just one burger a MONTH, cost $3.5K a year per person in taxes, force you to spend $55K on an electric car and ‘crush’ American jobs.”

Crane cited a January 2020 study by the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems, which discussed how a transition to a more plant-based diet by Americans could cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. The paper estimated the environmental impact of a 90% reduction in beef consumption.

Martin Heller, a research specialist at Michigan and one of the study’s authors, said there was no connection between the research and Biden’s plans.

The Britain-based Daily Mail defended its story while criticizing others in the media.

“President Biden has announced an extremely ambitious target for carbon emissions reduction that will have a massive effect on the American economy and way of life without giving a single detail of how he expects to achieve it,” a newspaper spokesperson said.

Biden has discussed several initiatives to help reach his climate goals, including increasing the use of wind and solar power and slashing emissions from fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

The newspaper’s spokesperson said that “we made it very clear these were steps that MIGHT have to be taken.”

But as the story spread, the qualifiers were deemphasized or disappeared entirely.

The conservative website Gateway Pundit ran a story Friday with the headline “Biden’s climate requirements: cut 90 percent of red meat from diet; Americans can only eat one burger per month.”

While a graphic on Friday’s “Fox & Friends” talked about what will be required to meet Biden’s green targets, host Ainsley Earhardt said, “He wants to cut out 90% of the red meat that you all eat.”

Later, Fox News anchor John Roberts said: “Say goodbye to your burgers if you want to sign up for the Biden climate agenda. That’s the finding of one study.”

A graphic onscreen, with a picture of a cheeseburger, read: “Up in your grill. Biden’s climate requirements: cut 90 percent of red meat from diet, max 4 lbs. per year, one burger per month.”

The story spread rapidly on social media. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Fox’s “Up in your grill” graphic, adding, “Not gonna happen in Texas!” Idaho Gov. Brad Little retweeted Abbott, adding, “Idahoans also have beef with this agenda and for dinner!”

It was Republican Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene who dubbed Biden “The Hamburglar,” a reference to a character in McDonald’s commercials.