Vice President Kamala Harris found herself in the wake of online criticism for the second time in recent months following a Christmas photo featuring a gas stove. Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, had received similar flak in a previously posted kitchen scene.
Images of the couple with their gas stove have instigated a significant response from Republicans, originating from a comment made earlier this year by a Biden-appointed safety regulator.
The safety regulator had proposed the possibility of banning gas stoves, citing their contributions to pollution—a suggestion that was subsequently rejected by the White House. This implied threat to gas stoves has made the Vice President a subject of criticism every time she is seen interacting with one.
A recent Christmas photo shows Harris using a gas-powered stove to cook beef Wellington, with apparent efforts to obscure the exact nature of the appliance—a fact that did not escape the users. Mike Collins, a representative from Georgia, drew attention to the stove, leading others to chime in with their comments.
Is that another gas stove? 🧐 https://t.co/oUYpz0tSHc
— Rep. Mike Collins (@RepMikeCollins) December 25, 2023
Critics argue that this image represents hypocrisy, given the administration’s prior recommendation about gas stoves. The discourse exploded with varying assertions about the administration’s intentions to deprive Americans of gas stoves and red meat, the very things depicted in the Vice President’s photo.
This controversy first took root in October 2022 when Richard Trumka Jr, head of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission—a Biden appointee—suggested that the Consumer Product Safety Commission might ban new gas stoves.
Citing research linking these appliances to harmful pollutants affecting human health and the environment, Trumka Jr argued that regulation was overdue and alternatives exist.
Republicans reacted with tangible outrage, accusing the Biden administration of wanting to ban gas stoves, a claim the White House was quick to repudiate. Both the President and the spokesman, Michael Kikukawa, clarified that they are not in favor of such a ban.
In hindsight, Trumka clarified that his proposition was for new products only, discounting any implications of a retrospective ban on gas stoves under consideration. His agency, tasked with reviewing consumer products and assessing their cost and impact, merely outlines safety standards for products, as opposed to banning them outright.
The Department of Energy stated they are proposing efficiency standards for gas and electric cooktops and not advocating for banning either. If accepted, these standards, projected to save the nation at a cost of approximately $1.7 billion, wouldn’t take effect until 2027. The Department of Energy’s assertion underscores that these proposed changes aim not to restrict but to enhance the standards and effectiveness of consumer products.
Through it all, Vice President Harris’s Christmas photo had inadvertently fanned the flames of a controversy originally sparked by this safety-oriented proposition. The online mockery and the subsequent allegations of hypocrisy unmask the high-stakes, high-visibility nature of public figures’ lives and the ongoing conversation about household emissions and environmental preservation.
In the face of rising temperature (literally and metaphorically), the tussle around gas stoves illustrates the complex intersection where public life, policy-making, environmental considerations, and public opinion converge.
As strategists scramble to control narratives and consumers grapple with potential change, it’s clear that the heat goes beyond the kitchen.