Spotify’s Joe Rogan and anti-trans writer Meghan Murphy peddled extreme rhetoric about trans people and spread false claims about coronavirus vaccines during the August 20 edition of The Joe Rogan Experience. Responding to whether targeted, anti-trans attacks are acceptable on his show, Rogan said, “You can say whatever you want. We're on Spotify.”
Murphy is an anti-trans author who has made a career of spreading anti-trans vitriol, and she was banned from Twitter in 2018 for misgendering and deadnaming trans people, which are forms of harassment that involve using a trans person's former name or incorrect pronouns and are a violation of the platform’s hateful conduct policy.
During the podcast, Rogan falsely asserted that mRNA 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.
He also said that trans women “use male tactics and male behavior as they invade feminist spaces” and “dominate them like men do,” while Murphy claimed that being trans is a “mental illness.”
Rogan has frequently used his platform to spread conspiracy theories, espouse COVID-19 misinformation, and promote smears against trans people. In 2020, Rogan dedicated two episodes of his show to giving anti-trans writers Abigail Shrier and Debra Soh a platform to spread misinformation. Following this, Spotify employees reportedly threatened to strike if episodes of Rogan’s podcast that promoted debunked conspiracy theories or anti-trans hate were not edited or removed from the platform. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has defended keeping Rogan’s dangerous rhetoric on the platform several times.
The Joe Rogan Experience is broadcast exclusively on Spotify and was the most popular podcast on the platform in 2020. As The Washington Post has noted, “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.”
Rogan and Murphy spread dangerous misinformation about coronavirus vaccines, falsely claiming they are “really gene therapy”
During the August 20 show, Rogan and Murphy lambasted vaccine mandates, and Rogan lied that mRNA vaccines are “not really a vaccine in the traditional sense” but rather “gene therapy.” In reality, as explained in Forbes, “mRNA vaccines are not gene therapy because they are not designed to alter or change your genes in any way.”
Rogan also falsely asserted that people who are unvaccinated and were previously infected with COVID-19 -- and therefore have some natural immunity -- do not need to be vaccinated. Rogan said 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, to which Murphy replied, “No, none of it makes sense.”
Based on current findings, this claim is false. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated, “COVID-19 vaccines offer better protection than natural immunity alone and ... vaccines, even after prior infection, help prevent reinfections.” Moreover, according to an August 26 Science article on newly released data from a large Israeli study, “people who had SARS-CoV-2 previously and then received one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine were more highly protected against reinfection than those who once had the virus and were still unvaccinated.”
Murphy said being trans is a “mental illness” and claimed that trans women are “predators" who “get off” on making other women feel uncomfortable
Throughout the interview, Rogan and Murphy targeted trans people. 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.” Additionally, Murphy claimed that trans women “get off on” making other women “feel uncomfortable” and called trans women “delusional” and “predatorial,” saying, “They know they’re making women uncomfortable, and they’re doing it anyway.”
Murphy also falsely claimed that being trans is “a form of mental illness” and asserted, “I don't even agree that gender dysphoria means there is such a thing as a trans woman.”
This harmful language appears to be acceptable on Spotify. YouTube, however, has a policy that prohibits videos from claiming that trans people are “physically or mentally inferior, deficient, or diseased.” It has inconsistently enforced this policy but has deleted some videos making similar claims.
Murphy also argued that people should refer to transgender women as “men” and misgender them, while Rogan said he would use the name and gender that a trans person wants. However, the two proceeded to repeatedly misgender and/or deadname several trans people, including Georgetown University politics fellow Charlotte Clymer, former Texas state high school wrestling champion Mack Beggs, Olympian weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner. At one point, Murphy explained that she “refuses” to refer to trans people in public by their correct pronouns because it “participates in this greater lie that if you identify as the opposite sex, that's what you are.”
Rogan responded that referring to trans people by their correct pronouns is a “new thing” that people “want to reinforce it to the point where it’s like doctrine.”
At one point, Murphy said that she was “going to get arrested for saying” disparaging things about Clymer. Rogan assured her that Spotify was a safe space for this kind of vitriol, saying, “You can say whatever you want.We're on Spotify. Like YouTube’s not going to pull it. We are in a weird realm because Spotify is headquartered in Stockholm.”
(In accordance with the Trans Journalists Association style guide, Media Matters has replaced Charlotte Clymer’s incorrect pronouns in the transcript below.)