Fox News is desperate to pin rising gas prices on President Joe Biden. Over a three-day period from November 8-10, Fox News hosts, anchors, and guests claimed at least 102 times that Biden’s policies -- including the fate of oil pipeline Line 5, which is under an environmental review -- have and will further increase the price of gas.
Before Biden was even elected, Fox suggested that a Biden presidency would mean higher gas prices. And as the prices started to rise in March and through the summer, in response to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and rising demand, Fox News and right-wing media were quick to blame the rebounding gas prices on Biden’s climate agenda. Since October, price volatility has been further exacerbated by big producers' refusal to increase production to address prices in the U.S.
And while Fox has kept up a continuous drumbeat of coverage suggesting that Biden’s climate agenda is impacting global oil prices, recent news that the administration is reviewing the impacts of replacing an oil pipeline that runs through Michigan has sent bad faith actors intent on tanking Biden’s presidency -- and his climate agenda -- into overdrive. Fox has framed this news as another possible action that would reduce supply.
This line of attack is typical fodder for elections and during times of rising oil prices, but belies the fact that presidents and their related policies have little effect on the price we pay at the pump. In this specific case, shutting down the Line 5 pipeline, which the administration is only reviewing, would have a negligible impact on the price at the pump.
But reports that the Biden administration was merely studying the pipeline resulted in a wave of coverage by Fox that kept the false narrative that Biden is responsible for high gas prices alive. It also provided a vehicle for the network to push additional misinformation and false narratives related to climate and energy and to undermine the urgent need to act on climate.
Fox is hellbent on tying high-energy cost to Biden
Over a three-day period from November 8 through November 10, Fox News hosts, anchors, and guests repeatedly claimed as part of the wall-to-wall coverage of gas prices that Biden’s policies have and will further increase the price of gas.
This particular surge in linking high gas prices to Biden was precipitated by news that the administration is reviewing the Line 5 pipeline, which is owned and operated by a Canadian company called Enbridge. The controversial pipeline carries crude and refined products from Canada through more than 600 miles of pipeline to Wisconsin. The portion of the project under dispute -- between Enbridge and Michigan state government -- tunnels under the Straits of Mackinac in northern Michigan which is part of the Great Lakes. According to Reuters:
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered Enbridge to stop operating the pipeline by May because of concerns a section running underwater in the Straits of Mackinac could leak into the Great Lakes. The company ignored that order and the two sides are in a legal battle over Line 5's fate.
Last month, the Canadian government, which backs Enbridge, escalated the dispute by invoking the decades-old pipeline treaty with the United States to trigger negotiations.
The dispute is complicated with many stakeholders and much at stake including the threat of an oil spill, which would be devastating to the region, its indigenous tribes, and its water supply. Though there were isolated reports briefly discussing the context in the Line 5 story, it was mostly either absent or dismissed in Fox's overall coverage and replaced with the prominent false narrative that Biden -- in service of extreme environmentalists -- is considering shutting down the Line 5 pipeline, a move that like other steps he’s taken to hobble the oil and gas industry will contribute to the spiking gas prices.
Fox Business host Charles Payne told Steve Doocy on the November 8, edition of Fox & Friends, “The day of the election, President-Elect Biden declared war on fossil fuel. Crude oil has gone straight up ever since. It’s about 150% since then in one year's time.” Fox host Maria Bartiromo echoed the same sentiment later that morning on America’s Newsroom, telling co-anchor Bill Hemmer, “Look, gasoline prices are up 42% year-over-year and it has everything to do with policy. … [Biden] canceled the XL pipeline and now we understand he is considering canceling another pipeline. That will take oil and gasoline off of the market and send prices even higher.”
On the November 9, edition of The Five, host Jesse Watters’ remarked, “President Biden is proving he's totally clueless and Americans aren't having it anymore. Joe Biden turning a blind eye to the problems plaguing the country, including rising gasoline prices, massive inflation, and energy crisis… all being made worse by his policies.”
The coverage linking high gas prices to Biden is the latest but not the first time Fox has blamed Biden for rising energy costs and likely not the last as this framing could hurt his presidency while undermining efforts to act aggressively on climate -- two goals that are top priorities for Fox News.
High energy prices, particularly spikes in the cost of gas, is seen as a political third rail. The oil crisis and resulting long gas lines that stunned the U.S. first in 1973 imprinted on the American psyche and politics and plagued Jimmy Carter’s one-term presidency during the second oil crisis of 1979. Since then, the right-wing media have wielded the real or perceived threat of rising gas prices and shortages against Democrats even though presidents have limited impact on gas supplies and even less on how gas is priced in the global market.
There's a whole lot of America that I think are regretting that they ever voted for Joe Biden, and they feel it every time they squeeze the handle of a gas pump. That single mom that can't afford to put gas in her car, get her kids to the daycare so she can go to work and put food on the table, she’s feeling it.
Gas prices are not the only thing Fox is lying about in its Line 5 coverage
In addition to falsely blaming Biden for gas spikes, Fox has also taken the opportunity to push additional misinformation and false narratives related to climate and energy, including the myth that Trump achieved energy independence during his presidency; the widely rebutted lie that unreliable wind energy was responsible for the massive energy crisis that hit Texas this past February; and the false narrative that if the canceled Keystone XL pipeline had been active, it would have had an impact on gas prices.
Several segments suggested that energy independence was achieved under Trump. For example, on the November 8 edition of America’s Newsroom, Bartiromo proclaimed that, “a year ago we were energy independent and we did not have to worry about OPEC.” On the November 9 edition of The Story with Martha McCallum, Trump’s Energy Secretary Rick Perry suggested that gas prices would be stable if the Biden administration had left “in place the policies that the previous administration had helped America become energy independent for the first time in 70 years.”
On at least two occasions Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy repeated the (largely manufactured by Fox News) lie that renewable energy sources were part of the central failure during the massive winter storm that shocked Texas in February.
As for the Keystone XL pipeline, Fox News has spent an enormous amount of air time making Keystone a symbol of Biden’s energy policy. During the November 9, edition of Fox & Friends First co-host Carley Shimkus relayed that pipeline worker Neal Crabtree (who has appeared repeatedly on Fox) “says that the effect on gas prices would be even bigger than the Keystone XL pipeline. Imagine that.” In an exchange on the November 9, edition of Your World with Neil Cavuto between the host and Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), Cavuto tried repeatedly to get Garamendi's acquiescence to the idea that cancelling Keystone was a mistake in light of the current hike in gas prices. Garamendi rightly pointed out that the pipeline, which would still be under construction, would have no bearing on the current situation.
As the gas-price coverage has shown, Fox figures are ready to pull these additional threads of misinformation and myths during discussions related to energy as a way to reinforce Fox’s positive narratives about the Trump presidency while disparaging Biden and any efforts to move away from a dirty energy economy.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the Snapstream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for any of the terms “pipeline,” “oil,” “fuel,” “energy,” “propane,” or “crude” or any variation of the term “gas” within close proximity of any of the terms “Michigan,” “Ohio,” “Wisconsin,” “midwest,” “Canada,” “line 5,” “line five,” “L5,” “L-5,” “Whitmer,” “Biden,” or “White House” from November 8 through 10, 2021.
We reviewed claims that Biden’s policies -- including his administration’s review of the Line 5 pipeline in Michigan -- are responsible for or will exacerbate rising gas prices, which we defined as statements that blamed Biden’s policies or actions for driven up gas prices.
We defined claims as uninterrupted blocks of speech from a single speaker. We did include claims made in aired clips or read quotes unless speakers positively affirmed the claims either directly before or after the played clip or read quote. For host monologues, we defined a single claim as a block of speech between a played clip or read quote.