Joe Rogan Wrapped: A year of COVID-19 misinformation, right-wing myths, and anti-trans rhetoric
Joe Rogan: “You can say whatever you want. We’re on Spotify.”
Throughout his first full year streaming exclusively on Spotify, host Joe Rogan has repeatedly used his podcast to broadcast conspiracy theories, COVID-19 misinformation, and anti-trans rhetoric to millions of listeners across the globe. One year into his contract, it’s clear that Spotify’s $100 million paycheck to Rogan is funding increasingly dangerous and bigoted content.
Media Matters monitored over 350 hours of The Joe Rogan Experience over the past year and found that the show is grounded in misinformation and bigotry. To coincide with Spotify’s 2021 Wrapped -- an annual summary of the trends on the streaming platform -- we compiled some of the worst examples of Rogan’s sexist, racist, and harmful commentary over the past year -- all paid for by Spotify.
Rogan is a veritable megaphone of right-wing lies, and when he is called out for peddling dangerous rhetoric, he shields himself from any accountability by claiming he should not be considered a “respected source of information.” He has also repeatedly praised Spotify for being a safe space for him as the platform has refused to do anything to quell the misinformation and hate on his show; Rogan once told a guest that anti-trans attacks are acceptable on his show, saying, “You can say whatever you want. We’re on Spotify.”
The Joe Rogan Experience is broadcast exclusively on Spotify and was the most popular podcast on the platform in 2021 and 2020. As The Washington Post noted in May, “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, Rogan reaches nearly four times as many people as prime-time cable hosts such as Sean Hannity of Fox News Channel and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.”
- On April 23, Rogan encouraged “healthy” young people not to get a COVID-19 vaccine, saying, “If you're like 21 years old, and you say to me, should I get vaccinated? I'll go no.” According to The Verge, Spotify reviewed these comments but did not find them in violation of any policies, thus leaving the episode live. Public health experts and White House officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci condemned Rogan's comments.
- On April 28, Rogan falsely claimed that any lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 “makes things worse,” saying, “It’s worse. It makes things worse, you know why -- because people go inside. They are trapped inside and that's where it spreads.”
- On May 14, he falsely claimed that far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was “right” about “actual microchips being injected into your arm to see if you have COVID-19.”
- On June 22, Rogan dedicated an entire episode of his podcast to promoting ivermectin as a prophylactic and therapeutic for COVID-19, even though it’s an unproven and potentially dangerous treatment for the disease. During the podcast, guest Bret Weinstein claimed that a study showed “ivermectin alone, if properly utilized, is capable of driving this pathogen to extinction,” and Rogan made unsubstantiated claims about its use for prevention of COVID-19, saying, “All it means is to take the drug to anticipate that you may get it, so if you’re in a high-risk area you take it and it’ll protect you from infection.”
- On July 20, Rogan promoted the right-wing lie that the government was planning to monitor private citizens’ text messages for anti-vaccine misinformation, saying, “Have you seen the new thing about SMS text messages to stop COVID vaccine misinformation? ... Saagar [Enjeti] from Breaking Points sent me this. We were talking about this recently. They are monitoring SMS texts for dangerous misinformation about COVID vaccines.”
- On August 6, Rogan fearmongered that vaccine passports would move the U.S. “one step closer to dictatorship” and lied that getting the coronavirus vaccine is not effective in preventing the disease, saying, “All you hear is take this vaccine that doesn't even prevent you from getting the disease, or you can’t go to the sauna or wherever the fuck you want to go. … If it was a vaccine -- it’s more of a treatment than it is a vaccine, really, if you look at it.”
- On August 12, Rogan promoted the baseless right-wing narrative fearmongering that immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border were causing a surge in COVID-19 cases, saying, “They are letting in -- so Greg Abbott, the governor, the great governor of the state of Texas, was correct -- they are letting in thousands and thousands of people who are positive with COVID.”
- On August 20, he falsely asserted that mRNA coronavirus vaccines are “really gene therapy” and lied that it is “not logical, it’s not rational, and it's not supported by science” to advise people with natural immunity to get a coronavirus vaccine. Notably, Rogan has made the same false claim that mRNA vaccines are a form of “gene therapy” on August 18, September 21, November 8, and November 10.
- On September 23, Rogan fearmongered that vaccine passports will lead to a “social credit system similar to what they have in China.”
- On September 30, Rogan baselessly suggested that President Joe Biden did not actually receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, falsely claiming that it would be unsafe and potentially deadly to do so on live TV.
- On November 10, he repeatedly spread the baseless claim that the Biden administration is trying to stop people from receiving monoclonal antibodies, a COVID-19 treatment, “because it discourages people from getting vaccinated.” Rogan repeated this claim on the November 26 edition of his show, asserting that the treatment is being withheld because “they don't want there to be a very clear path where you don't have to be vaccinated but if you get sick you’re going to be fine.”
- On November 22, Rogan falsely asserted that children do not need to get a COVID-19 vaccine, saying, “They’re trying to say that children need it when they don't. They don't need it.”
- Later in that episode, Rogan baselessly claimed that use of ivermectin “essentially cured COVID” in Uttar Pradesh, India.
- On June 25, Rogan lied that “there’s not a lot of overwhelming, overt discrimination against people who are trans, like, publicly other than the sports thing” and prisons.
- On July 3, Rogan mocked and misgendered a young person who came out as trans to his friends. He also said that “it’s fashionable” to be nonbinary, later claiming, “It’s going to get worse.” He also asserted, “I think people are going to be transracial. I think in the next few years transracialism is going to be, like, fully embraced. And then we're going to have Black folks on our side, because they're going to go hey, ... this is crazy. All this stuff about trans women competing in the Olympics, that wasn't as bothersome.”
- On August 12, Rogan agreed with his guest Andrew Schulz’s comments when Schulz used an anti-trans slur and compared trans people to QAnon conspiracy theorists, asserting, “QAnon is just like conservative t-----s. That’s really all they are.” Rogan also claimed that being nonbinary is “very, very self-indulgent,” and said that trans people are “not experiencing real adversity or, you know, real discrimination, so you create discrimination against yourself.”
- On August 20, Rogan asserted that “men transitioning to women use male tactics and male behavior as they invade feminist spaces,” “tend to be more assertive,” and “dominate whenever possible if left unchecked.” He also said that trans women “use male tactics and male behavior as they invade feminist spaces” and “dominate them like men do.”
- Later in that episode, Rogan derided an unnamed trans woman, saying she had a “terrorist beard” and that “there’s no way you’re a woman.” Rogan continued, “There are definitely people with legitimate gender dysphoria that want to be a woman, and they’re biologically male. And then there’s grifters. There’s crazy people. There’s people who have locked on to this movement.”
- On November 3, Rogan used an anti-trans slur, lamenting, “You can’t say t----y,” before his guest repeatedly used the slur. He also mocked the idea of a comedian using they/them pronouns, saying, “Imagine if there is a comic who gave into that.”
Right-wing misinformation and bigotry
- On January 30, Rogan commented on actor Angelina Jolie’s genitals, saying, “Crazy pussy is the best pussy. … She’s clearly crazy.” He also demeaned Jolie for developing Bell’s palsy, saying, “That’s the problem with crazy is crazy comes with all sorts of neurotic shit.”
- On May 13, Rogan lamented the so-called effects of “woke culture,” saying, “It keeps going further and further down the line and if you get to the point where you capitulate, where you agree to all these demands, it’ll eventually get to straight white men are not allowed to talk, because it’s your privilege to express yourself when other people of color have been silenced throughout history."
- On July 3, Rogan imitated people who speak Mandarin and questioned, “Is that racist to do that, to imitate a sound?” He also imitated an Asian accent on the November 3 edition of his show.
- On July 29, Rogan claimed that journalist Lauren Sanchez is an “alpha predator female” and agreed with his guest’s claim that her “puss puss is probably incredible because girls like that, you got to respect they know that that’s their job.”
- On August 8, Rogan used an anti-Chinese slur, complaining, “You can’t say Chinaman."
- On October 6, Rogan called people who had criticized his guest on TikTok “retarded.” After his guest replied “you can’t say that,” Rogan said, “But I’m on Spotify. You can get away with it.” He also said the word on November 26 edition of his show and claimed that the word means “you’ve been held back in learning because you’ve applied the wrong kind of thinking to things. It does not mean someone with Down syndrome, and this idea that those two are ... the same thing and it’s a slur or it’s a terrible thing to say, that's not true. It's not right.”
- On November 3, Rogan pushed the right-wing lie that Dr. Anthony Fauci and the National Institute of Health funded “experiments on these beagle puppies and they put their heads in cages and filled the cages with sand flies where the sand flies were literally eating the beagles alive.”
- On November 26, Rogan claimed that the Democratic establishment will “kill people on purpose that are causing problems” and said, “You have this organization that's based on this sort of cronyism and [House Majority Leader] Nancy Pelosi is the head witch.”
- In that same episode, Rogan spread the right-wing lie that Biden called Kyle Rittenhouse -- the teenager who killed two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year and was later aquitted -- a “white supremacist.”