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Democrats accuse GOP of new lows in culture wars

Democrats say Republicans are hitting a new low with their recent attacks on President BidenJoe Biden28 Senate Democrats sign statement urging Israel-Hamas ceasefire Franklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Schools face new pressures to reopen for in-person learning MORE — including a false narrative about the president taking away their hamburgers. 

The conspiracy theory that Biden wants to ban beef gained steam in Republican circles and conservative media in the past week, fanned by lawmakers such as Rep. Lauren BoebertLauren BoebertMaher on Biden's trillion plans: 'Thank God we got Mexico to pay for that wall' Democrats accuse GOP of new lows in culture wars Boebert takes out space blanket during Biden speech to draw attention to border surge MORE (Colo.) who accused Democrats of wanting “to limit us to about four pounds [of beef] a year.”

The false claim was sparked by a report in the Daily Mail, a tabloid based in Great Britain, that said Biden’s climate plan could limit burger consumption to one a month per person. Biden’s actual climate plan makes no such recommendation; the claim appears to come from a study unrelated to the White House that is itself based on a hypothetical question.

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Another false story, first published by the New York Post, said Vice President Harris’s children’s book “Superheroes are Everywhere” was being included in the welcome packs of migrant children at the border. 

The reporter who penned the story resigned from The Post, claiming she was forced to write the piece. The piece was then removed from the Post’s web site, before it returned with a new edit and an editor's note saying that only one copy of the book was given to a child, a claim that has also been debunked. 

Both stories became fodder for conservatives all week, underscoring a Republican fixation on cultural issues. Democrats argue it will end up hurting the GOP in the end.

“They're showing everyone every day how f---ing small they are,” said one Democratic strategist bluntly. “This isn't even a strategy. It's carrying on Trump's lies.”

Some Republicans are also worried about the issue.

“Is it a strategy? I don't think it's a strategy,” said Tony Fratto, who served as deputy press secretary to former President George W. Bush. “I think these kinds of conspiratorial rumors are a feature of the modern Republican Party.

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“This isn't something that happened to the party,” he added, pointing to the party's embrace of controversial figures such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor GreeneThe Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene says she's meeting with Trump 'soon' in Florida QAnon site shutters after reports identifying developer MORE (R-Ga.), who has been criticized for espousing conspiracy theories. “And they're not just spreading these bizarre ideas. They have a hand in manufacturing them. They are part of the machinery.”

Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunAll congressional Democrats say they have been vaccinated: CNN Let America's farmers grow climate solutions GOP split on counteroffer to Biden's spending MORE (R-Ind.) said his party shouldn’t be embracing the conspiratorial narratives. 

“It’s just no good for discussing things and it gets a lot of people confused,” Braun said. “I don’t think there’s any value in it at all.” 

At the same time, he pointed the finger at Democrats for doing the same thing during former President TrumpDonald TrumpFranklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Man suspected in wife's disappearance accused of casting her ballot for Trump Stefanik: Cheney is 'looking backwards' MORE’s administration. 

“I think there’s far too much of that here in general,” he added. “It can surface from either side. In the Trump days of it, you got a lot of that coming from the other direction.” 

Personally speaking, Braun said, he doesn’t pay much attention to these types of stories that make the rounds on media and social media sites.

“That kind of stuff goes in one ear and out the other for me. I’m going to be looking at the substantive component of whatever area I’m interested in when it comes to health care, climate, budget,” he added.

Another Republican senator, who requested anonymity to speak about the issue, said false attacks such as claims that Biden wants to ban beef or that the administration gave migrant children copies of Harris’s children’s book or even that former President Obama wasn’t born in the United States are  counterproductive to Republican messaging.

“I think it’s probably what’s happened in politics for a thousand years,” the GOP senator surmised, while calling these types of “apocryphal” claims counterproductive to Republican efforts to knock Biden down a peg, politically.

“I think what’s effective is he’s a six-trillion-dollar man,” the lawmaker added, referring to the total cost of Biden’s three big legislative proposals, which would total more than $6 trillion in spending.

He said Biden’s spending agenda is “way overboard” and “the public isn’t where he is.”

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP split on counteroffer to Biden's spending Police reform talks hit familiar stumbling block CNN asks Carol Baskin to comment on loose Texas tiger MORE (R-Texas), when asked about stories that the Biden administration wants to ban beef or give copies of Harris’s book to migrant children, said it’s a fundamental truth that the president and his inner circle are “out of touch.”

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“I really am just amazed that they act like this border situation is just going to go away, and it’s going to get nothing but worse,” he said.

Cornyn said, “Biden is just trying to appeal to his base saying climate is an existential threat.”

“Talk to me about nuclear weapons first,” he added.

Earlier in the year, Republicans sought to blame Democrats for a decision by the publisher of Dr. Seuss's books to pull six books from publication over racist images.

A number of Republicans also are clinging to the false narrative that last year’s presidential election was stolen from Trump, and have backed recount efforts in Arizona.

Republican strategist Doug Heye said in one sense the culture war arguments have been effective. 

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“As long as the president remains popular, Republicans are going to do what they can to distract from those issues,” Heye said. “As we’ve seen, culture wars get attention. Things like Dr. Seuss may not be the most serious issue, but if your objective is to distract, this is a safe place for many Republicans to go.” 

Fratto said the closeness of the 2020 election will give some Republicans more incentive to keep the falsehoods going. 

“I don’t believe that many of them think anything is wrong,” he said. “In a way, it’s worked for them.”