Fact check: 3 reasons the GOP's 'bare shelves' attacks on Biden don't add up


On Wednesday, Fox News used a 2011 photo taken in Japan to attack Biden for 'empty shelves.'

Republican elected officials and conservative outlets like Fox News have sought to blame President Joe Biden's administration for "empty shelves" at supermarkets, but several factors unconnected to Biden are the true cause of disruptions, according to experts.

On Wednesday, on the program "Fox News Primetime," Fox News used a graphic with a photo of Biden over a picture of empty grocery shelves with the caption "Empty Shelves Joe." Host Rachel Campos Duffy told viewers, "From New York to Virginia, all the way to Alaska, people are left without groceries and can't put dinner on the table and they are upset. No surprise, #BareShelvesBiden was trending on Twitter."

But the purported photo of empty shelves on Biden's watch was actually a 2011 photo of a supermarket in Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake there that caused an explosion and fire at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Congressional Republicans have launched similar attacks on Biden.

On Wednesday night, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) wrote on Twitter, "Families are seeing empty shelves and high prices at grocery stores. What's Biden doing about it? Nothing."

"Bare shelves. Higher prices. Fixing this mess should be @POTUS's priority," Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) wrote on Wednesday afternoon.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called on people to submit photos of empty shelves along with the hashtag #BareShelvesBiden, a hashtag that was promoted by Pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec.

But experts have noted that the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant, winter weather disruptions, and ongoing problems with the global supply chain are truly to blame for whatever empty shelves consumers have encountered.

In a Monday call with food industry executives, Geoff Freeman, CEO of the Consumer Brands Association, noted that supermarkets have had more employee absences in the last two weeks than in all of 2020, which was attributed to the rapid spread of the virus.

Stew Leonard, owner of the supermarket chain Stew Leonard's, noted on the same call that 200 of the company's 2,500 employees have been out sick or in quarantine, which has directly impacted the company's ability to provide goods.

Meat producers have reported that the spread of the virus among workers has led to slower production, which then affects the availability of meat in stores.

In the first week of the year, multiple states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions were hit by winter storms, which caused disruptions across key supply routes that service grocery stores.

The global supply chain has also continued to face disruptions, as countries continue to deal with COVID-19. The Washington Post reported that municipalities in China and the United Kingdom have shut down factories, which has led to slowed orders for food products that were en route to the United States.

Australia, among other countries, has also been suffering from shortages of food and other supplies, stemming from the same sort of disruptions occurring in America.

The Biden administration has taken action to alleviate the disruptions and to increase the food supply.

In addition to ongoing efforts to speed up the supply chain, the administration announced on Jan. 3 that $1 billion in funds authorized under the American Rescue Plan law would be used to assist independent meat processors. The funds are intended to help those manufacturers increase their capacity, allowing for increased competition with the large processors who dominate the industry.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.