In early July, right-wing media outlets including Fox News began reporting that an emergency sale from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve conducted in March resulted, in part, in the sale of close to 1 million barrels of oil to a Chinese company that Hunter Biden once had equity in.
A related story, also reported as controversial, that subsequent releases from the reserve, known as the SPR, have also resulted in oil landing in Asia and other foreign markets, which conservative critics decried as antithetical to Biden’s goal of using the reserves to lower domestic gas prices. Since then, right-wing politicians have been questioning the sale and releases and calling for everything from investigations to legislation to even impeachment of Biden.
Several news outlets have investigated the claims since July 11 and released fact checks that explained that the sale, by law, must go to the highest bidder and that where the oil ends up is irrelevant because it still contributes to the global supply and market which determines gas prices. These fact checks featured energy analysts who seemed genuinely confused about the fuss over these releases, with one expert telling The Washington Post: “There has been a lot of buzz lately, but I think it’s a complete nothingburger,” said Robert McNally, the founder and president of the Rapidan Energy Group, in The Washington Post’s writeup.
Regarding the accusation that the sale benefited Hunter Biden, as Snopes reported, “Hunter was no longer a member of the equity firm at the time of that sale, and there was no evidence that Sinopec received oil via the SPR for any other reason than it submitted one of the highest bids to pay for its barrels.”
These fact checks should have wholly defused the outrage by right-wing media outlets and figures. Rather than clarify, many right-wing media outlets and figures, including Fox personalities, continue to suggest there was something controversial or illicit at play within this routine sale and release.
Last week, top Fox personalities including Maria Bartiromo, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Jesse Watters pushed the story that the SPR sale from March, and subsequent releases, were controversial. Even after at least five outlets issued fact checks, they are either still pushing it or have not corrected the original story.
Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo, on July 7 and 8, abandoned the basic principles of global oil markets to suggest that the oil release to other sellers would negatively impact domestic gas prices. On the July 13 edition of Mornings With Maria, Bartiromo allowed guest Newt Gingrich to express outrage about Biden selling oil reserves to a company associated with his son.
On the July 7 edition of Mornings With Maria, host Maria Bartiromo reported: “But here's an even bigger story that I've got to get your take on from your standpoint on national security and your standpoint on foreign affairs. Joe Biden reportedly sent 5 million barrels of oil from American reserves — this is the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. He's sent 5 million barrels of oil to Europe and to Asia, including China, where people here at home are suffering from soaring gasoline prices, he's talking about this being his magic bullet to get gasoline prices down.” [Fox News, Mornings With Maria, 7/7/22]
On the July 8 edition of Mornings With Maria, Maria Bartiromo again reported: “Then there’s this new report … that President Biden exported 5 million barrels of oil from the American petroleum reserves to Europe and Asia including China. I mean, here we are suffering at home, rising prices. The president says he's making this move, he called it like his magic bullet, to unleash oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and then we find out that 5 million gallons of that oil went to Europe and Asia including China.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 7/8/22]
On the July 13 edition of Mornings With Maria guest, Newt Gingrich said: “What kind of American president would take the American strategic oil reserve and send a million barrels of oil to a Chinese company his son has business with? Biden is essentially a creature of a machine and I don't know how cognitively clever he is.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 7/13/22]
Hannity guest host Gregg Jarrett linked the SPR sale to Hunter Biden on July 8. Sean Hannity continued to make the connection after fact checkers disputed the claim that the Biden family benefited from the sale.
On the July 8 edition of Hannity, guest host Gregg Jarrett said: “Joe Biden is compromising U.S. energy security by appeasing adversaries abroad because we're continuing to learn more tonight about the Biden administration actually shipping oil from our U.S. reserves to a Hunter Biden-linked gas giant, prompting increased scrutiny and demands for transparency from Republicans on Capitol Hill.” [Fox News, Hannity, 7/8/22]
On the July 8 edition of Hannity, host Sean Hannity said: “We're now sending Strategic Petroleum Reserves to China when we don't have enough oil in this country. It seems to me that all of this, the soft on Russia China policy, has got to be rooted in some way on the fact that the Biden family is compromised by these countries.” [Fox News, Hannity, 7/12/22]
Sean Hannity on the July 14 edition of Hannity said: “While Biden suffers more blunders abroad, ask yourself, why is Biden so hostile to American oil and gas and domestic production? Why has he been so soft on American adversaries like China because he's given them our Strategic Petroleum Reserves and he's giving them a pipeline to Vladimir Putin. Now, why do we need to ask this question? Is the Biden family compromised in places where Hunter and his associates made millions and millions of dollars, like China, Ukraine, Russia, and others?” [Fox News, Hannity, 7/14/22]
Fox News host Tucker Carlson pushed the story at least three times, even implying that the decision to send the oil to China is an impeachable offense. He did not correct himself after the fact checks were published.
On the July 6 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson said: “So, as gas prices set records in this country, as American citizens who were born here and vote and pay taxes cannot afford to fuel their own cars, the Biden administration is selling off our emergency oil reserves to China. That's not an indictable offense? It's certainly an impeachable one, and they should impeach him for that.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 7/6/22]
On the July 7 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson said: “It turns out Joe Biden is selling maybe the single most valuable resource the American people own and that's our energy, taking oil from Strategic Petroleum Reserve and selling it to China.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 7/7/22]
On the July 8 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson said: “The Chinese government has made Joe Biden's family extraordinarily rich — richer than we knew. In fact, we just learned from The Washington Free Beacon that the Biden administration has sent a million barrels of oil from our — not belonging to him, but to us, the American people — our Strategic Petroleum Reserve to a Chinese-owned energy company that Hunter Biden has invested in.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 7/8/22]
Last week, Fox News host Jesse Watters pushed the story on back to back nights, again implying the decision was Biden’s alone and that Hunter personally profited. Despite clarification from several fact checks that Hunter did not benefit, Watters has failed to update his coverage.
On the July 7 edition of Jesse Watters Primetime, host Jesse Watters said: “As of this moment, we can't say for sure that Hunter has an ownership stake in this company nor can we say profited from the sale. But what is indisputable is this: Hunter Biden is not a Chinese economist. He is not a Chinese energy expert. The only reason why the Chinese would cut him into the company is so that he can pedal influence back in Washington with his dad and get some really great deals. And you know what? It looks like he did his job.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 7/7/22]
On the July 8 edition of Jesse Watters Primetime, Watters said: “Exxon Mobil didn't give the oil to the Chinese company. Biden’s administration gave the oil to the Chinese company. She is so clueless. Here's a bright idea, French lady. Don't sell oil to the Chinese companies if you don't want the oil going to China. But they did, didn't they? Here's the thing: Hunter's fingerprints are all over this deal. Hunter did a lot of deals with the Chinese and he was tied to the oil company and got a nice cut of the Chinese action years ago. He is no oil expert. He’s not an economist. He was there to do a job: help broker deals and peddle influence in Washington with his dad. And now that the Chinese are getting return on investment it looks like Hunter is finally a man of his word.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 7/8/22]
On the July 8 edition of Jesse Watters Primetime, guest Miranda Devine said: “Well, I guess it's just another pile-on from the laptop. You know, we see the way that Joe Biden and his administration have gone soft on China, whether it be, you know, diverting a million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to Sinopec … . All of that is inexplicable unless you think that Joe Biden is compromised with China. Even if you didn't know all those dirty dealings of Hunter and Jim Biden to do with China and the millions of dollars that came flooding into their bank accounts.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 7/8/22]
In addition to these top Fox personalities, other right-wing media figures continue to give oxygen to this noncontroversy long after fact checks started to emerge clearly explaining the reasoning behind the sale.
Dinesh D’Souza falsely claimed that the oil from the petroleum reserve was going to ultimately benefit the “Biden crime family” and that it was a failed foreign policy move. Glenn Beck pushed the idea that the sale was somehow related to Hunter Biden, even agreeing that it should result in the president’s impeachment in an interview with Newt Gingrich on his show. Gingrich said that the move made this “the most corrupt administration in modern times,” concluding that “Joe Biden lied. … He’s still lying.”
Right-wing politicians continued to blow the sale out of proportion as well. On July 13, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced a bill that would block the U.S. from selling oil to “foreign adverseries,” including China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) also wrote a letter demanding an investigation into the Department of Energy to find out whether the sale involved any “gross administrative misconduct.”