Right-wing media are weaponizing fake outrage about a severe baby formula shortage in the U.S. for political gain, using the crisis to attack migrant babies, bash abortion rights, complain about aid to Ukraine, and accuse President Joe Biden of mismanaging and exacerbating the shortage.
The U.S. is facing a dangerous formula shortage that has parents scrambling to feed their babies and stores rationing products. In some states, over 50% of formula products are out of stock. Less than half of infants in the U.S. are exclusively breastfed through 3 months of age, so most parents rely on formula to help feed their children before they are ready for solid foods.
The shortage is partly a result of corporate conglomeration — as of 2018, just four companies control nearly 90% of the formula market. In addition, poor federal oversight and weak safety standards at key manufacturing plants led to massive recalls for contaminated formula. Supply chain issues exacerbated by the pandemic have only made the shortage worse.
In response to the shortage, the Biden administration has said that it is working with the Food and Drug Administration to increase production and potentially loosen restrictions on imported formula, and it has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate price gouging. And chief of staff Ron Klain has reportedly told a member of Congress the White House is also “absolutely” and “strongly” considering having President Joe Biden use the Defense Production Act to increase the supply of formula.
Meanwhile, right-wing media outlets, figures, and guests have been fueling their ongoing culture war by linking the formula crisis to hot-button issues like abortion and Ukraine to further outrage their audience.
Suggesting the U.S. should starve migrant babies
Fox News hosts and other right-wing pundits suggested that the government should starve migrant babies in detention because U.S.-born babies and their parents are facing a formula shortage. Aside from the obvious moral duty to feed human beings in its care, the government is legally required to provide adequate nutrition — including formula when appropriate — for incarcerated immigrants.
- On the May 13 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt complained that “border children, the illegal immigrant children, are getting formula.” Co-host Steve Doocy responded, “American families, there's a shortage, but if you're a migrant, don't worry, because Uncle Sam has a stash of that.”
- On his Fox prime-time show, Jesse Watters argued that U.S.-born babies are more deserving of food than immigrant babies, saying, “Apparently, there is no shortage of baby formula for illegal aliens. ... Why are we feeding illegal babies ahead of American babies? Why can illegals get baby formula from border agents but we can’t get it at Walgreens?”
- Fox host Tucker Carlson said it’s “too humiliating” that the U.S. is feeding babies in detention. As he aired footage of migrants at the Texas border, he told his prime-time audience, “Once they get here, the Biden administration will give them food supplies that you can't buy. Those would include baby formula.”
- Fox host Sean Hannity suggested migrant babies don’t deserve food because of their parents’ immigration status: “These are not people that respected our borders, our laws, and our sovereignty. Why wouldn't all of the pallets [of formula] go to American families first?”
- On his May 12 radio show, Hannity blamed the Biden administration for “shipping baby formula to illegal immigrants while Americans are going without.”
- Fox’s Laura Ingraham suggested the government feeding migrant babies is "something that will infuriate you” and claimed, “That alone should win the election for the Republicans in November.”
- Fox host Mark Levin lambasted the Biden administration for “sending pallets of baby formula to the border” for detained migrant families while “working Americans with kids, they can’t find baby formula.”
- Pro-Trump writer Nick Adams claimed on Twitter that the Biden administration does not care about American citizens because it is feeding migrant babies: “The Biden Administration says providing baby formula to migrants is their responsibility. What about the American people?!”
- Anti-Muslim extremist Brigitte Gabriel shared a clip from Hannity’s Fox News show about the government feeding migrant babies and implied that this was coming at the expense of U.S.-born children, writing, “American citizens deserve access to baby formula!”
- Fox News contributor and former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich tweeted: “It is insane that, once again, the Biden administration has prioritized the needs of illegal immigrants over American citizens.”
- Newsmax published a May 12 story titled “GOP Rep: Biden Shipping Pallets of Baby Formula to Border Amid Nationwide Shortage,” accusing the administration of misusing supplies by feeding migrant babies.
- The Washington Examiner published an opinion column titled “Illegal migrants first to get ‘pallets’ of hard-to-find baby formula.” The article claimed, “The nationwide shortage of baby formula that has sent mothers desperately rushing from store to store has evaded one lucky group: illegal immigrants detained by Border Patrol.”
- The Daily Caller published an article titled “‘RECKLESS’: Greg Abbott, Border Patrol Union Pres Slam Biden For Reportedly Shipping Pallets Of Baby Formula To Illegals Amid Shortage,” accusing the administration of harming U.S. citizens by feeding migrant babies.
Attacking abortion rights
Some right-wing pundits claimed that the Biden administration doesn’t care about the formula shortage because it is pro-choice and wants to “kill” babies, or that the Biden administration is proposing abortion as a solution to the formula shortage. Some claimed Democrats are hypocrites, implying they are only worried about abortion rights and not the formula shortage.
- Fox News host Jesse Watters claimed on May 10 that “the White House seems to be more worried about aborting babies than they are with feeding them.” He added, “Maybe they do see abortion as a cure to the baby formula shortage."
- On Steven Crowder’s podcast, guest Donald Trump Jr. connected the formula crisis to abortion rights, claiming, “You can't get baby formula but at least you can really kill your baby really fast in this country.”
- On the May 11 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, co-anchor Dana Perino suggested the Biden administration was focusing too much on abortion rights while ignoring the formula shortage: “Where is Kamala Harris? She asked the question ‘how dare they,’ when it comes to Roe v. Wade, well, how dare you not pay attention to the nation's mothers?”
- RISE Pac ambassador and QAnon conspiracy theorist Scott Presler blamed Biden for the shortage and claimed that pro-choice advocates are advocating for infanticide, writing, “I’ve noticed that the same people pushing for abortion up until the moment that a baby is born are the same ones who don’t care about Joe Biden’s baby formula shortage.”
Criticizing efforts to aid Ukraine
Some right-wing media figures and guests suggested that instead of attempting to send $40 billion to Ukraine to help the country fend off the Russian invasion, Congress should use that money to produce baby formula. Others claimed that Biden’s support of aid for Ukraine during the formula shortage proves he doesn’t care about the welfare of people in the U.S.
- Fox News host Laura Ingraham criticized the Biden administration for trying to send aid to Ukraine in the midst of the formula shortage during a May 13 segment, asking: “How is this America? … And it’s American mothers like the ones you just heard from, they are struggling to feed their children. We’re sending billions and billions and billions to Eastern Europe. In the last hour, the House passed a bill to send another $40 billion to Ukraine in military and humanitarian aid. Is this even popular with the American people?”
- On the May 10 edition of Steven Crowder’s podcast, guest Donald Trump Jr. also criticized the U.S. sending aid to Ukraine, saying, “You don't have baby formula but Congress is voting today on spending $40 billion to help Ukraine so that we can be in a proxy war with Russia. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?”
- Turning Point USA contributor Jack Posobiec tweeted a picture of mostly empty store shelves, adding, “Target baby formula shelf. We are sending 40 Billion to a far-off war while our babies go hungry. No serious country would act in such a manner.”
- Former Trump administration official and podcast host Monica Crowley argued that the U.S. government is abandoning its own people by sending aid to Ukraine: “Americans can’t afford groceries or gas and have dwindling access to baby formula, but the ruling class is sending another $40 billion to Ukraine. These sadists not only don’t give a crap about you - they WANT you to suffer.”
- Right-wing radio host Clay Travis wrote: “Our country just gave $40 billion to Ukraine and we can’t keep baby formula on the shelves for moms.”
Blaming the Biden administration for the crisis
Right-wing media figures accused the president of not taking the shortage seriously and demanded that he address the crisis from his “bully pulpit.” Some claimed the shortage was the latest casualty of inflation, which they also blamed on the president.
- On Outnumbered, Fox “news”-side anchor Harris Faulker said Biden should use his “bully pulpit” to pressure companies to make more formula. Co-host Emily Compagno argued that there has been “zero accountability” for the federal government’s lack of action on the shortage.
- On her May 9 edition of The Faulkner Focus, Faulkner connected the baby formula shortage to inflation, quoting an Axios story that “Biden is now talking about rising prices at every opportunity and trying to convince the American public he has a plan to lower costs.” She added, “This comes as prices keep getting higher in just about every single category. Don't get me started on the whole baby formula crisis — $120 a can of formula if you can find it in resellers.”
- Faulkner also decried the Biden administration’s response to the formula shortage in another segment, saying, “It’s a health crisis — I can't even believe we’re adding a crisis to the Biden administration's list.”
- Breitbart's John Nolte called the crisis “Joe Biden’s Baby Formula Shortage” in an article title, writing, “Is this a story out of Africa? South America? Mexico? The Middle East? Nope. This is what’s happening in Joe Biden’s America.”
- Washington Times columnist Tim Young blamed the shortage on an environmental and social welfare spending bill Biden sponsored (which has so far not been passed), writing, “Today under Build Back Better, America is running out of baby formula. Congrats!”
- Author Nick Adams criticized Biden for his response to the formula shortage, writing, “Where is all the baby formula? Why isn't Joe Biden doing anything?”