In the 1980s shock jock Howard Stern became the self-declared “King of All Media,” but in recent years his relevance has been on the decline. The same can’t be said for Joe Rogan. His podcast is now considered more important to up and coming comics than The Tonight Show was even in the era of Johnny Carson.
And even as he courts controversy Rogan shows no signs of backing down.
Rogan On Covid?
Just this week, a group of 270 medical experts called on Spotify to cancel the top-rated “The Joe Rogan Experience.” The doctors, researchers and health-care professionals who co-signed a letter to the streaming media service expressed concern that 54-year-old host and well-known comedian was using the platform to spread questionable medical advice.
In particular the group of medical professionals called out a December 31, 2021 episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, which featured guest Dr. Robert Malone.
“The episode has been criticized for promoting baseless conspiracy theories and the JRE has a concerning history of broadcasting misinformation, particularly regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the statement read.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Joe Rogan has repeatedly spread misleading and false claims on his podcast, provoking distrust in science and medicine. He has discouraged vaccination in young people and children, incorrectly claimed that mRNA vaccines are ‘gene therapy,’ promoted off-label use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 (contrary to FDA warnings), and spread a number of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories,” the group of medical professionals added.
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The campaign against Rogan was launched in part by infectious disease epidemiologist and research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital Jessica Malaty Rivera, Rolling Stone reported. She had more than 38,000 followers on Instagram, and she has regularly connected with followers who have questioned her on some of Rogan’s claims.
As Rolling Stone also reported, this is far from the first time that Rogan has been accused of using his show to spread Covid-related misinformation. In an April 23, 2021 episode, Rogan reportedly actively discouraged young people from getting the vaccine.
Yet, even as some in the medical community may have called out Rogan, his power is certainly felt on social media as many users quickly came to his defense.
“The more our media tries to get us to hate Joe Rogan, the more I love the guy,” wrote YouTube Channel and Twitch host Gary Sheffield Jr. (@GarysheffieldJr).
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) tweeted, “I assure all of those — particularly those in the media — calling for Joe Rogan’s censorship, Joe is laughing at you. And he should be. He’s willing to talk with pretty much anybody, he isn’t beholden to your corporations, and his audience dwarfs yours BECAUSE of those things.”
Radio host Tara Servatius (@TaraServatius) was also quick to defend Rogan, posting, “Crazy idea: Instead of silencing Rogan for wrongthink, how about we just have a debate?”
“The attempts to censor Joe Rogan scare me more than Covid,” added former director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association Matthew Kolken (@mkolken).
Some of Rogan’s critics were equally vocal on Friday.
“BREAKING: 270 health experts demand that Spotify STOPS Joe Rogan’s dangerous Covid lies. Raise your hand if Spotify should DROP Joe Rogan!,” Jon Cooper (@joncoopertweets), Majority Leader of the Suffolk County Legislature, NY.
Epidemiologist & health economist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) tweeted, “Incredible—The goal post moving of Joe Rogan after getting fact checked live is incredible. Fact— there is an 8x higher risk of myocarditis with #COVID19 infection than with the vaccine among young people. Please #vaccinate, don’t risk COVID.”
Former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) pulled no punches, “It’s simple: @JoeRogan is the stupidest f**king guy on the planet”
The Rogan Experience Indeed
Rogan, a comedian and UFC color commentator, launched the podcast in December 2009. Since December 2020 it has been available exclusively on Spotify, while highlights are also uploaded to YouTube. In January 2019, the podcast won Best Comedy Podcast at the iHeartRadio Podcast Awards, and last year it remained the most popular podcast in the United States.
The power of his brand was also on display earlier this month after he very publicly signed up for the Twitter rival Gettr, which was created by former Trump aid Jason Miller. The platform had launched last July, but after Roganjoined up the service reportedly saw a massive influx of users.
Yet, instead of rejoicing over the influence he has with the masses, Rogan suggested something was amiss with the service. Earlier this week, during an appearance on The Tim Dillon Show, Rogan suggested that Gettr was “fugazi” – a slang term for “fake.”
Rogan added that Gettr was relying on a function that re-posts his tweets from his Twitter profile, and according to Business Insider was in the process of “looking to get off the platform.” Miller said in an emailed statement to Insider that Gettr was in touch with Rogan’s team to address any issue.
“The follower count on Gettr includes Twitter followers because we will soon be incorporating cross-platform posting, meaning that when you post on GETTR, it will automatically post on Twitter at the same time. This number shows your true reach,” Miller said via the statement.
With a top rated podcast, which likely will only benefit from the recent controversy, it would seem that Rogan is far bigger than the social media startup – he’s shown himself to be the king of new media, one who uses controversy to expand his brand.