Joe Rogan breaks silence on Spotify controversy over COVID content
Fox News contributor Jonathan Turley discusses free speech and private censorship on ‘America Reports.’
Podcast star Joe Rogan has emerged as Public Enemy No.1 among media liberals after being accused of peddling misinformation about COVID-19, and the former sitcom star took an unlikely path to being despised by the left.
“Joe Rogan is a liberal, but it almost doesn’t matter what he is politically. The biggest difference between Rogan and the consensus pushers in the legacy media is that he’s curious – he approaches topics with humility and interest, and brings deep conversations to his audience without drilling into their heads how they should think,” Fourth Watch editor Steve Krakauer told Fox News Digital.
“It’s the antithesis of our arrogant gatekeepers, who spend so much energy attempting to convince their audience how they should think and feel, to the detriment of their own credibility,” Krakauer continued. “Has Rogan hosted conversations on his podcast where guests, or he, have made dubious statements? Absolutely. But the difference between Rogan and the establishment press is these statements are made not in the context of a veneer of absolute truth, but in a free-flowing exchange of ideas and conversation.”
Joe Rogan, the popular podcast host on Spotify, has emerged as Public Enemy No.1 among liberals.
(Photo by Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images)
Rogan rose to fame years before Spotify shelled out a reported $100 million to bring his podcast to the digital music streaming platform. He spent years as a successful standup comedian, had a mid-90s stint on NBC’s “NewsRadio” alongside the late Phil Hartman, hosted the reality TV hit “Fear Factor” and has been an Ultimate Fighting Championship announcer for two decades.
He launched “The Joe Rogan Experience” in 2010, and it quickly developed a following for its discussions about entertainment, current events, politics, comedy and just about everything else the namesake host found interesting.
By 2015, “The Joe Rogan Experience” topped 11 million monthly downloads and the comedian-turned-actor-turned-UFC announcer-turned-reality TV host was suddenly more famous for his podcast than anything else. He says the success happened organically, and he never intended to conquer what is essentially modern talk radio.
“It just sort of f—–g happened,” he said in 2016.
Four years later at the beginning of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Spotify announced it would bring “The Joe Rogan Experience” exclusively to its platform. That same year, Rogan declared he would “probably vote for Bernie” Sanders, the iconoclastic left-wing Vermont U.S. Senator running for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Rogan’s quasi-endorsement of Sanders resulted in backlash from the left, as liberal were irked that Sanders touted his support. However, the liberals were not annoyed because of Rogan’s politics, instead claiming he made “racist, homophobic and transphobic comments” throughout his career.
A CNN article reporting backlash to Sanders’ campaign boasting about Rogan’s support described the podcast star as “a libertarian-leaning broadcaster,” and cited past use of the N-word and his speaking out that transgender MMA fighters shouldn’t be allowed to fight biological women as why he was considered problematic at the time.
Liberal pundits have urged the streaming platform for take action against "misinformation" spread by Joe Rogan.
“The decision to highlight Rogan’s support has divided opinion among Democrats and activists, particularly online, where it has sparked a heated debate over whether Sanders should have aligned himself with Rogan in any form or context,” CNN reported at the time.
Far-left group MoveOn even asked Sanders to apologize for elevating Rogan’s endorsement.
A mere two years after Rogan first annoyed progressives simply by saying he’d vote for a self-described Democratic socialist, the “The Joe Rogan Experience” is seen as the face of COVID “misinformation” by many outspoken lefties.
Rogan has claimed he isn’t anti-vaccine, but has also suggested healthy young people simply don’t need it, which doesn’t sit well with many liberals. After backlash, Rogan clarified on a later episode: “I’m not a doctor, I’m a f–king moron, and I’m a cage-fighting commentator who’s a dirty stand-up comedian … I’m not a respected source of information — even for me.”
However, that wasn’t the last time Rogan found himself discussing COVID on his show.
In June 2021, Rogan’s guest, biologist Bret Weinstein, said “ivermectin alone, if properly utilized, is capable of driving this pathogen to extinction.” Months later, Rogan announced he tested positive for COVID himself and was using ivermectin to help combat the virus.
“We immediately threw the kitchen sink at it. All kinds of meds,” Rogan explained in September. “Monoclonal antibodies, ivermectin, Z-pak, prednisone, everything. And I also got an anti-D drip and a vitamin drip.”
The liberal media quickly began criticizing Rogan, accusing him of pushing ivermectin on his loyal fan base. The drug was a hot topic at the time, as it is often used to treat animals. But Rogan insisted three days of his “kitchen sink” strategy helped him recover quickly.
“Here we are on Wednesday and I feel great,” Rogan explained at the time. “I really only had one bad day. Sunday sucked, but Monday was better, Tuesday felt better than Monday and today, I feel good … I actually feel pretty f–king good.”
Rogan has also insisted people who have antibodies don’t always need the vaccine, is an outspoken critic of lockdowns and interviewed controversial Dr. Peter McCullough. Last month, Rogan suggested the risk of myocarditis among vaccinated people age 12-17 was higher than the risk of contracting COVID, but was quickly fact-checked by Australian broadcaster Josh Szeps.
As Rogan spoke about COVID more frequently, he transitioned from a comedian who made controversial comments on occasion to an influential podcast host who must be silenced in the eyes of many liberals. The Daily Beast enlisted a far-left advocate to declare Rogan was “mainstreaming right-wing information,” and liberal musicians have pulled their music from Spotify to protest his thoughts on COVID treatment and rhetoric by recent guests.
“The anti-speech activists in the media hate Rogan because they fear him,” Krakauer said. “Because if an audience can be empowered to think for themselves by a media personality who refuses to tell people what to think, what do they need the mainstream press for?”
"The Joe Rogan Experience" launched in 2010 and it quickly developed a passionate following. (Photo by Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images)
(Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images)
Last month, a group of advocates signed an open letter that asked Spotify to “take action against mass-misinformation events” on its platform after Rogan’s “highly controversial episode” with Dr. Robert Malone, which seemed to be the last straw for many of Rogan’s staunch critics.
Social media platforms reacted in panic after Malone’s interview with Rogan, in which he applied a theory from Professor Mattias Desmet suggesting how a large population can be sent into “mass formation psychosis.”
The video was swiftly removed from YouTube, while Malone believes Google search results were also affected. The open letter blasted Rogan for pushing “misleading and false claims on his podcast, provoking distrust in science and medicine” during the ongoing COVID pandemic and noted that Dr. Malone has been suspended from Twitter for spreading misinformation about COVID.
Former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann last week called Rogan the “stupidest f—–g guy on the planet” after he interviewed Malone. CNN invited a health care professional who signed the letter to amplify it on the network’s struggling morning show “New Day,” where co-host Brianna Keilar mocked Rogan for “moving the goalposts” after he was fact-checked in real time by Szeps.
Rogan has since been criticized by everyone from Meghan Markle and Prince Harry to musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, who pulled their music catalogs from Spotify in an act of protest against his COVID rhetoric.
“While unsurprising, it’s still amazing that someone like Joe Rogan has become the subject of such hatred and venom from the leftists media and their allies in academic and public medicine. Rogan has drawn such strong levels of invective for simply going against the ruling class on issues such as COVID-19 and, more broadly, the classically liberal principles of free, open, and rigorous debate with diversity in thought,” NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck told Fox News.
“Despite having had a long career in Hollywood and supported politicians like Bernie Sanders, none of his past behaviors are enough in the eyes of today’s left. It’s conform or be silenced. It’s twisted and, quite frankly, lame brained for them to voice support for free speech and the First Amendment but insist Rogan shouldn’t be allowed to have a prominent platform,” Houck continued. “It’s not only important to point out how he’s not to be confused with a conservative, but it’s almost an imperative to illustrate just how authoritarian and close-minded too many on the left have become.”
CNN has particularly feuded with Rogan; the two sides feuded when Rogan took ivermectin to tread COVID-19 and the liberal outlet ran the narrative that he had taken “horse dewormer” and a “livestock drug.” Rogan fired back in an interview with CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta that his network was “lying” and Gupta conceded some of CNN’s people had misspoken.
During a headline-making appearance on Rogan’s podcast, Gupta pointed to the “snarky” statement released by the FDA saying, “You are not a horse. You are not a cow,” in order to encourage people to not take ivermectin, but Rogan remained persistent on calling out CNN’s coverage of a drug that’s been “given out to billions and billions of people” and resulted in a Nobel Prize.
Rogan first told Gupta that his ivermectin was “prescribed to me by a doctor,” forcing the CNN correspondent to say the drug “shouldn’t be called” horse dewormer.
The fight continued when CNN fumed in a statement to the Washington Post that Rogan had undermined faith in effective vaccines, adding “the only thing CNN did wrong here was bruise the ego of a popular podcaster who pushed dangerous conspiracy theories.” The Post’s Erik Wemple wrote at the time that the statement from CNN “sounds more like the work of an advocacy group than a journalism outfit.”
A post shared by Joe Rogan (@joerogan)
Rogan spoke out about calls to silence him on Sunday in a video he posted on Instagram. He offered some background on his guests and argued that their opinions were worth hearing, while challenging the word “misinformation” given that so much is still being learned about COVID-19.
Rogan said Spotify will begin to put a disclaimer at the beginning of these sorts of interviews, and he will also consider following them up with an expert with a different opinion.
“I’m going to do my best, in the future, to balance things out … I’m going to do my best,” Rogan said. “But my point of doing this, always, is just to create interesting conversations and ones that I hope people enjoy.”
Fox News’ Nate Day, Joseph A. Wulfsohn, Angelica Stabile, Edmund DeMarche and Sam Dorman contributed to this report.
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