After Media Matters first reported that Joe Rogan encouraged “healthy” 21-year-olds not to get a COVID-19 vaccine, TV news outlets including NBC, CNN, and MSNBC debunked Rogan’s dangerous recommendations.
Notably, on NBC’s Today, Dr. Anthony Fauci explained that Rogan was “incorrect” and noted the importance of young people getting vaccinated, saying that “even if you have no symptoms, … you may inadvertently and innocently then infect someone else, who might infect someone who really could have a problem with a severe outcome.”
Rogan is one of the most influential podcast hosts in the world. His show is broadcast exclusively on Spotify and is the most popular podcast on the platform. He has frequently used his podcast to spread conspiracy theories, espouse dangerous COVID-19 misinformation, and attack trans people -- and the platform has not held him accountable for it. In fact, The Verge reported that a “source close to the situation says Spotify reviewed this Rogan episode and left it live because he doesn’t come off as outwardly anti-vaccine” and “doesn’t make a call to action,” even though he blatantly and dangerously recommends that young people eligible for the vaccine do not follow public health guidance and get one.
Experts estimate that in order to achieve herd immunity, society may need to get to a critical mass of 70% to 90% of people vaccinated. As public health experts and numerous media outlets have noted, Rogan’s rhetoric is harmful to public health as it fuels vaccine hesitancy which could undermine those efforts toward herd immunity. Notably, vaccination rates in the U.S. are at the “lowest level since late March.”
Broadcast and cable TV news networks debunked Rogan’s claims
On NBC’s Today, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease doctor, said that Rogan’s claims are “incorrect” and noted that young people should “absolutely” get vaccinated. He also said that Rogan’s rhetoric amounted to “only worry[ing] about yourself and not society.”
During the April 28 segment, Fauci explained, “You can get infected, and will get infected if you put yourself at risk. And even if you don't have any symptoms, you're propagating the outbreak because it is likely that you, even if you have no symptoms, that you may inadvertently and innocently then infect someone else, who might infect someone who really could have a problem with a severe outcome.”
CNN’s Brianna Keilar spoke with CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner, who said, “Joe Rogan is wrong.” Reiner also characterized Rogan’s rhetoric on such a “big platform” as “really destructive” and urged Rogan to “walk this back and get educated.”
During the April 28 segment, Reiner noted that young people “are really powering the spread,” explaining that “the only way to put this virus down once and for all is to immunize and inoculate, vaccinate young people, and that needs to be done.”
Later in the April 28 edition of New Day, host John Berman asked White House communications director Kate Bedingfield how Rogan’s rhetoric will “impact your efforts to get the American people vaccinated?” Bedingfield replied, “Did Joe Rogan become a medical doctor while we weren't looking? I'm not sure that taking scientific and medical advice from Joe Rogan is perhaps the most productive way for people to get their information.” She also noted that “the number of people who say that they are willing to get vaccinated is rising.”
During the April 27 edition of The 11th Hour With Brian Williams, MSNBC public health analyst Dr. Irwin Redlener explained that former President Donald Trump’s record of spreading medical misinformation allows figures like Rogan to get “away with this absolute nonsense.” Redlener also noted that “a lot of blood and a lot of lives are on [Trump’s] hands and on the hands of people who continue to propagate this nonsense to the American people.”
Redlener concluded the segment saying, “If I could make a plea, it would be turn away from these charlatans, turn toward the CDC and other legitimate sources of information. If we don’t do that, a lot of us are going to face some terrible consequences in the near future.”
On April 28, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, joined MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle Reports to contextualize how Rogan’s rhetoric will fuel vaccine hesitancy and harm public health. Jha explained, “If you've been kind of bombarded for a year saying this virus is a hoax, that it's nothing more than the flu, then it’s going to be hard to convince those people that you actually should get vaccinated against this.”
He also said that Rogan “was completely wrong” and that “it’s really, really important that everybody get vaccinated.” He stressed that it is important for “trusted voices,” including podcasters, to encourage people to get vaccinated. Host Stephanie Ruhle concluded the interview by stating, “It's mystifying why he would give people such bad information that puts them in harm's way.”