Right-Wing Media Provoked Fake Panic Over New York Pizza Oven Rule

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Right-Wing Media Provoked Fake Panic Over New York Pizza Oven Rule

Pizza

Right-wing media are trying to convince viewers that climate activism in New York restaurants will ruin the city’s famous pizza. The fabricated crisis is just the latest attempt to stoke culture war outrage over appliances and other products in an ongoing campaign to turn Americans against benign safety and energy efficiency updates.

On June 25, the New York Post misleadingly reported: “The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has drafted new rules that would order eateries using the decades-old baking method to slice carbon emissions by up to 75%.”

The article quoted an anonymous “pizza restaurateur” who claimed that “this is an unfunded mandate and it’s going to cost us a fortune not to mention ruining the taste of the pizza totally destroying the product. … And for what? You really think that you’re changing the environment with these eight or nine pizza ovens?!” The Post also spoke to a random customer who bashed the rule, saying, “I’m all for responsible environmental practice but tell Al Gore to take one less private jet or something. Give me a break!”

Several other right-wing news outlets including Fox News and Newsmax picked up on the story, magnifying what turned out to be incorrect information about the new rule and ignoring other key details from the Post article, while the paper’s editorial board attacked “the green assault on NYC pizza.”

Two days after the New York Post published its story, Fox News was still dedicating considerable airtime to the city’s pizza oven regulations. On June 27, Fox aired 52 minutes discussing the Post's pizza story. For comparison, the network spent just 23 minutes that day reporting on leaked audio of former President Donald Trump discussing classified documents seemingly taken from the White House — showcasing how right-wing media seized on the pizza oven rule to push their preferred narratives.

The 2015 rule is intended to reduce air pollution, not climate change and hasn't affected pizzerias

The New York Department of Environmental Protection is asking restaurants with cooktops that were installed prior to May 2016 to install “control devices” like smoke scrubbers to help manage harmful air pollution, including “odors, smoke, and particulates.” But right-wing media and even some mainstream outlets are reporting that the rule is meant to reduce planet-warming carbon emissions instead.

Climate journalists Emily Atkin and Arielle Samuelson pointed out this discrepancy in their June 27 newsletter and rebutted the widely circulated claims that wood-fired ovens would be banned or that installing control devices would change the taste of pizza. They also noted that a rule requiring this technology on cooktops installed after 2016 had already been put in place nearly a decade ago.

Atkin and Samuelson clarify that the pizza oven rule is really about reducing air pollution:

The proposed rule states that coal- and wood-fired cook stoves covered by the rule are only asked to reduce particulate matter emissions by 75 percent.

Particulate pollution and carbon pollution are not the same thing. Particulate pollution refers to the tiny pieces of solids and liquids that we can breathe into our lungs and harm our health: think smoke, smog, dirt, and soot. Carbon pollution refers to the greenhouse gas that warms the planet.

This is an air pollution rule. It’s not a climate rule. [Heated, 6/27/23]

They also highlight that this rule has already been in place for a few years, yet pizza quality seems unchanged:

The Post’s anonymous “pizza restaurateur” said the new rules would take away the crispy charred crust “that makes the pizza taste great.” But there is nothing in the rule that mandates pizzerias get rid of their high-temperature ovens.

The only thing the rule requires is for pizzeria owners to have an architect or engineer come check out the oven, and see if it’s feasible to install an emissions scrubber. If it’s not, they can apply for a waiver.

An even stronger piece of evidence against the anonymous “pizza restaurateur’s” claim is that this rule is already in place. It’s been nearly a decade since New York passed its 2015 law requiring emissions-scrubbing technology on commercial wood- and coal-fired ovens built after 2016. [Heated, 6/27/23]

Finally, Atkin and Samuelson note, “That 2015 law is actually the reason for the city’s latest proposed pizza oven regulations—it’s not because of Green New Dealers, as the Post’s editorial board claims.” [Heated, 6/27/23]

On CNN This Morning, news correspondents Christine Romans and Bill Weir reassure New Yorkers that no one is coming for their pizza, but the segment still featured a graphic repeating the false claim that the rule is meant to reduce carbon emissions: “If you think that New York City is going to take away your pizza oven, fuggedaboutit. That is not going to happen. What they’re asking is that you seriously consider adding a device that would reduce emissions if you have one of these pizza ovens before 2016,” says Romans. “But on the right, there’s like this outrage machine about this that is very loosely based in fact.” Weir clarifies, “This is much more about the people who live upstairs from a coal-fired pizza oven — or wood-fired — who breathe that smoke, than it is about climate change and regulation.” [CNN, CNN This Morning, 6/28/23]

Right-wing media blame climate advocates and the left for taking things away

Right-wing media connected this supposed attack on New York City pizza to other recent rules meant to cut down on harmful pollution and make appliances more energy efficient, often based on the false assumption that the rule was meant to primarily address climate change.

They frequently mentioned gas stoves, which became a right-wing rallying call after it was reported that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission was considering implementing restrictions on new gas stoves to address health concerns and “indoor air quality hazards” from their emissions. In May, New York became the first state to ban new gas stoves in some types of buildings, though restaurants are exempt. The latest pushback over New York City pizza ovens is part of right-wing media’s ongoing efforts to keep Americans reliant on fossil fuels by opposing the electrification of homes and appliances.

  • Fox News host Greg Gutfeld says, “They’re outlawing gas stoves, and now they want the pizza ovens.” “No surprise, the science says ovens caused several ice ages, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and the canceling of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. … They’re outlawing gas stoves, and now they want the pizza ovens. What are we supposed to cook on, solar panels?” [Fox News, Gutfeld!, 6/27/23]
  • Fox News correspondent Nate Foy misinforms viewers about the rules governing the proposed new regulations on pizza ovens: “According to these new proposed rules from New York City, any business with a coal- or wood-fired oven that was purchased before 2016 would have to attempt to lower carbon emissions by 75%. One way to do that, Sandra, would be to purchase filters that could cost $20,000. A lot of pizza shop owners are really worried about the cost associated with that, also the possible impact on the taste of their pizza.” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 6/27/23]
  • Fox News Radio host Jimmy Failla on Kudlow: “We were told by the Democrats, if you remember, well the government needs to stay out of our bedrooms. Well, you’ve got the government in my garage, in my kitchen, in my pizza place. Like, what’s off limits? Can we establish some boundaries?” [Fox Business, Kudlow, 6/27/23]
  • Fox & Friends interviews pizza shop owner who says the rule is “like killing a fly with a sledgehammer” before admitting he already put a smoke filter in years ago “because it was bothering my neighbors.” Paul Giannone stated, “I think it's ridiculous. I think it's like killing a fly with a sledgehammer, first of all. They say that a hundred places would have to do this. The mayor compared the smoke that comes out of these hundred ovens to the fires that were in Canada. He said that, OK, which is ridiculous. And, you know, I put mine in, first of all, because I was told that we had to have it by January 2020. I just found out through all of this that I didn't have to do it right away. I put mine in because it was bothering my neighbors.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends,6/27/23]
  • Speaking to pizza shop owners, Fox & Friends First co-host Todd Piro quotes climate denial shill Marc Morano’s claim it would take burning a pizza oven “everyday for 849 years to equal the amount of carbon emissions from John Kerry's jet in one year.” “I want to get your reaction to this stat. Marc Morano, he’s an environmental guy, understands how things work. He’s been on our show multiple times. He says you would have to burn a pizza oven like yours everyday for 849 years to equal the amount of carbon emissions from John Kerry's jet in one year. What is your reaction?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends First, 6/27/23]
  • One America News host Alison Steinberg spoke to Larry Behrens, the director of communication at Koch-connected organization Power The Future, using the so-called “climate rule” to fearmonger over other policies: “It makes me wonder if there's some grand conspiracy from the Chicago pizza folks to try to undermine New York pizza. The fact of the matter is, this is another time where the eco-left finds something that is endearing to our way of life, something that we love — gas stoves, gas-powered cars, the things that we use that absolutely do not bother anyone else, like a great slice of New York City pizza — and they can't tolerate it because they can’t use it to control us.” [OANN, In Focus, 6/27/23]
  • Students for Trump founder Ryan Fournier: “NYC Mayor [Eric] Adams is cracking down on pizza ovens to reduce emissions while traveling in a motorcade of 5 SUVs. You can't make this up.” [Twitter, 6/27/23]
  • Right-wing comedian and Gutfeld! writer Joe Machi calls the rule “a ruse” on The Story with Martha MacCallum: “Look, those Canadian wildfires were bad, but you’re not breathing in that at the pizza restaurant. No one’s even complaining you’re breathing that in. … It’s going to have nothing to do with climate change, it’s all a big ruse. It’s going to make things more expensive for the mom and pop pizza shops.” MacCallum later adds, “We all remember that they’re also going after the gas stoves.” [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 6/27/23]
  • On Fox News @ Night, chef Andrew Gruel claims pizza regulations are a “red herring to push natural gas bans” and you’d need “probably a million coal-fire pizzas in order to match the amount of carbon emissions that comes out of one trip from John Kerry's private plane.” “The amount of coal fire ovens there are right now in New York City is minuscule. This is a drop in the bucket. This means nothing. I think it's a red herring for them to push the natural gas bans on stoves. … I've said it as well, you'd have to cook probably — and this is a stat, this is science — probably a million coal-fire pizzas in order to match the amount of carbon emissions that comes out of one trip from John Kerry's private plane.” [Fox News, Fox News @ Night, 6/26/23]
  • Fox News contributor Sean Duffy claims pizza oven rules are evidence that “ecoterrorists … want to control our lives” by “getting rid of gas stoves.” “This does nothing to impact climate or climate change or global warming. They should focus on India and China if they want to impact climate change. But this is a group of people who are all about control. I think they are ecoterrorists, frankly, they want to control our lives. And, again, remember on the gas stove front, as we did those stories, they were like, ‘That’s fake news. We’re not going to get rid of gas stoves.’ And sure enough, here they are getting rid of gas stoves. Whatever happened to a country where we believed in freedom and people were able to make decisions and choices for themselves? But now we have a group of folks coming after things that don’t have any impact on the environment, don’t have any real impact on the health of the human being. A gas-fired stove is completely safe, and leave them alone.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/26/23]
  • Fox & Friends First co-host Carly Shimkus asserts that the rule is “a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.” “OK, I am listening and have a baby in the city now and want him to breathe clean air. And then they start talking about pizza, and it really threw me for a loop because I was like maybe they'll address the subway smoke that randomly billows out of the street, you just have to hold your breath and walk through and hope for the best, or the people that use the streets as their own personal bathroom. But they talked about pizza. And it just really felt like a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 6/26/23]
  • Fox Business host Stuart Varney claims “environmental justice groups” want to “tell you what to eat and how to cook it”: “They’re gonna tell you what to eat and how to cook it. They want to do all of that. This has been pushed by the environmental justice groups. So, be careful here. I don't know how this is going to work out, but everybody is going to be paying more, and we all have to conform to the environmentalist rules.” [Fox News, Fox and Friends, 6/26/23]
  • Responding to the New York Post story, Twitter owner Elon Musk incorrectly suggests that the rule is meant to address climate change: “This is utter bs. It won’t make a difference to climate change.” [Twitter, 6/26/23]
  • Conservative social media influencer Wall Street Silver repeats misinformation about “the CO2 output” of pizza ovens: “The mayor of NYC has done enough private jet travel to vastly exceed the CO2 output of 100% of the combined restaurants using wood burning pizza ovens.” [Twitter, 6/26/23]
  • Right-wing media personality Rogan O'Handley, who operates the Twitter account DC Draino, tries to use recent air pollution from wildfire smoke as an excuse to be lax about pollution from ovens: “Remember when forest fires caused by arsonists in a foreign country completely blanketed NYC with smoke? Do you know how Dems responded? Not by demanding reparations from Canada. Nope, they’re going to punish small pizza business owners with ovens. Insane.” [Twitter, 6/26/23]
  • Right-wing troll James Lindsay: “You think it's just a meme, but the next step in the dialectical narrative game is that the ‘far right’ is doing a culture war over NYC pizza.” [Twitter, 6/26/23]
  • Newsmax host Chris Salcedo claims New York City is “cracking down on pizzerias in the name of climate change.” “It comes after New York City drafted new rules demanding that any pizza joint using wood- and coal-fired stove cut down on carbon emissions by 75%. About 100 restaurants would be impacted in the rotten apple. Pizza owners are pushing back saying well, it will crush their businesses, which many critics say is exactly the goal.” [Newsmax, The Chris Salcedo Show, 6/26/23]
  • Newsmax’ The National Report pushes the false claim that the rule targets “carbon emissions” and suggests that it will “change the taste” of pizza.” “Now, historic pizza joints could be forced to cut down on carbon emissions by 75%. … So about 100 restaurants in the city would be impacted by this. Now, some of the New York pizza restaurant owners, they're pushing back, saying by changing the ovens, you're going to change the taste.” [Newsmax, The National Report, 6/26/23]
  • TheBlaze writes that “New York City pizza is the latest thing the government is going after in the name of climate change.” [TheBlaze, 6/26/23]
  • Newsmax panel on American Agenda warns “the liberals in New York City are coming after your favorite pizza joints.” Panelist Melanie Collette says, “Just like everything else the green Gestapo tends to do, this is not going to move the needle.” [Newsmax, American Agenda, 6/26/23]

Right-wing media claim that that rule would eliminate authentic New York pizza

Right-wing influencers lamented that the rule would hinder the ability of classic New York restaurants to make good pizza or that it would totally ban wood or coal-fired ovens. This is false, but it hasn’t stopped conservatives from having a meltdown over the new rule. Far-right activist Scott LoBaido, who has organized with the Proud Boys, received media attention for throwing pizza at City Hall in protest.

There are only about 100 restaurants in New York City that would be impacted because they have older coal or wood-fired ovens. But the owner of Paulie Gee’s, a beloved pizzeria in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, said that while the technology is expensive, the restaurant’s neighbors were “happier” and it did not change the product.

  • Fox host Jesse Watters, who just took over Tucker Carlson’s former 8 p.m. slot, says New York City Mayor Eric Adams wants to “split up the beautiful marriage between pizza and coal-fired ovens. He is floating the idea of banning restaurants from using wood and coal ovens because that is what is going to save the environment.” “So the vegan mayor thinks it could be a pizza for two minutes in a coal oven is going to save the planet. Wrong. … What are we supposed to do? Microwave the pizza? It is going to crush everybody who loves good pizza.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 6/27/23]
  • Fox host Sean Hannity says pizza is being threatened by the “radical left”: “Meanwhile, the woke madness continues in New York City, where the best pizza in the world — basically the only good thing in this Adam Schiffhole city — is in serious danger thanks to the radical left.” His guest, OutKick host Charly Arnolt, adds, “Well, the thing is if you live in New York City there is a good chance you could possibly be stabbed on your way to grab a slice of that delicious pizza. I mean, there's crime everywhere. This is the crazy thing about it is these leftists, they’re focused on this climate change, this agenda, when really they're just out to make our lives super miserable.” [Fox News, Hannity, 6/27/23]
  • Newsmax host Rob Schmitt interviews LoBaido, bashing climate policy and spewing climate change denial: “It’s worth noting none of these people that work in the environmental sector of this city had a problem with the Paris climate accord that actually incentivized China to increase their emissions all the way until 2030. No, they'd rather just come after small business owners in New York City and all over the United States, bankrupt all the good pizza places and make this city just a little bit more miserable than it already is. That's the agenda apparently.” LoBaido says that the sun causes climate change and Schmitt adds, “The Earth has been here for billions of years, and in time the temperature goes up. The temperature goes down at times. … We’re blaming the wrong thing and we’re allowing governments to destroy our quality of life.” [Newxmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 6/27/23]
  • Former Newsmax host Benny Johnson says that “New York has canceled pizza”: “The point of the Green New Deal, the point of the Great Reset, the point of the World Economic Forum is to humiliate you, denigrate you, and to prove that you, the little people, cannot have the nice little things that you have wanted so badly in your life. … You’re no longer allowed to eat pizza. Microwave Tostinos only in New York. [The Benny Show, 6/27/23]
  • In an interview, Johnson compares LoBaido to Paul Revere for throwing pizza at City Hall: “This is the Paul Revere moment of our time, this is the Boston Tea Party of our time. … You took that pizza to the front of the mayor’s house, I think, and you chucked it over the fence. And we say thank you.” [The Benny Show, 6/27/23]
  • Fox News Radio host Jimmy Failla writes that Democrats are “banning pizza ovens”: “Democrats told us things would go back to normal if we just elected Biden. Now they’re pushing kids to chop their d**ks off and banning pizza ovens. I kinda feel like we were lied to.” [Twitter, 6/27/23]
  • On America’s Newsroom, Fox News contributor Tom Shillue praises LoBaido for throwing pizza at City Hall. “It’s the kind of guy you don't want to mess with. Actually, I want a slice now, it’s early but I kind of would love a slice from this guy. But when you go into those pizza places, sometimes you are intimidated by that pizza guy. You want to get it right. It’s almost like the soup Nazi. … I don't want to mess with this guy. I think he’s great. He’s an activist.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 6/27/23]
  • Daily Wire host Michael Knowles claims liberals want to “shut down the pizza shops” to “make you suffer”: “Everybody hates the smell of pizza, of course, and that’s why we’re going to shut down the pizza shops. Does anyone really believe, first of all, that the emissions are going to cause the sun monster to end the world? No. … They’re going after your pizza specifically because it will make you suffer.” [The Daily Wire, The Michael Knowles Show, 6/27/23]
  • Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade laments that soon “it’s going to be electric ovens” and says “of course it’s going to change the taste”: “Take one of the great tourist attractions, the thing that makes New York New York and decide we’re going to have to stop that. Soon it’s going to be electric pizza ovens. … Of course it’s going to change the taste.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/26/23]
  • Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy writes, “Give me pizza or give us death!” In an accompanying video rant, Portnoy says: “Apparently in New York City, some fucking little liberal arts, Ivy League, pink-haired, crazy liberal who’s never worked one day in the real world is on an environmental commission, and they woke up from their little nappy-poo, wherever that may be, and they’re like, ‘I figured out how to save the world today. We have to get rid of coal oven pizzerias in New York City.’" [Twitter, 6/26/23]
  • Post Millennial writer Libby Emmons falsely claims that “climate activists” want to “do away” with authentic pizza: “Now they want to do away with the best pizza that exists in the world, and it's all in service to climate alarmism. … The new plan from the geniuses at the city level is to do away with this tradition, the tradition of my ancestors, and to make pizzerias that use this old-time method not only pay out the nose to keep doing it, but to make the pizza a shadow of its former glory.” [The Post Millennial, 6/26/23]
  • Ungoverned host Shawn Farash advises people to leave New York because of the new rule: “The one thing that New York still has going for it, they’re cracking down on. Why? Because of course, carbon emissions. You can’t use coal and wood to make your pizza! What are we going to do, eat electric pizza? Are we kidding? ... If you’re still in New York and this asinine bullcrap is going on in your backyard, what are you doing?” [LFATV, Ungoverned with Shawn Farash, 6/26/23]
  • The Daily Caller runs an article with the headline “Climate Extremists Are Now Coming For Your Coal, Wood-fired Pizzas.” [Daily Caller, 6/26/23]
  • Conservative Substack author @amuse: “PIZZA NAZIS: New York Democrats crack down on coal and wood-fired pizzerias - they must cut down carbon emissions up to 75%.” [Twitter, 6/25/23]

Correction (6/30/23): This piece originally stated that Todd Starnes had discussed the pizza rule on the June 27 edition of Fox & Friends First. In fact, it was co-host Todd Piro.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

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