Aaron Rodgers and vaccines
Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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Aaron Rodgers’ descent into the right-wing fever swamps

In his appearances in right-wing media, Rodgers pushed extreme and outlandish conspiracy theories about vaccines, elections, and architecture

So far in 2024, New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers has appeared on multiple right-wing podcasts where he has promoted conspiracy theories. What began publicly as a hesitancy to get vaccinated for COVID-19 appears to have devolved, with the athlete now spewing absurd conspiracy theories and bigoted misinformation on right-wing platforms.

  • As a regular guest on ESPN’s The Pat McAfee Show, Rodgers announced he was unvaccinated and floated a conspiracy theory targeting Jimmy Kimmel

    • Rodgers has been a repeat guest on ESPN’s The Pat McAfee Show for years. Rodgers has had a long-running deal with The Pat McAfee Show, making regular weekly appearances during the NFL season as part of “Aaron Rodgers Tuesdays.” According to The Pat McAfee Show’s YouTube channel, Rodgers has made at least 68 appearances since September 18, 2019. [YouTube, accessed on 5/20/24; Forbes, 10/12/23
    • In 2021, Rodgers revealed on The Pat McAfee Show that he was unvaccinated for COVID-19 after claiming earlier in that year that he was “immunized.” Rodgers defended his decision not to get vaccinated and claimed he was not being dishonest by insisting he was “immunized” earlier that year. He also complained that a “woke mob” was trying to “cancel” him because he’s unvaccinated against COVID-19. [NBC, 11/5/21]
    • Rodgers once suggested on The Pat McAfee Show that comedian Jimmy Kimmel may appear in court documents relating to notorious sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein. When asked about the “Epstein list” during an episode of The Pat McAfee Show, Rodgers seemed to imply that Kimmel’s name might appear on that “list.” Rodgers stated, “There’s a lot of people, including Jimmy Kimmel, who are really hoping that list doesn’t come out.” There was no mention of Kimmel in the released documents. [CNN, 1/10/24; Reuters, 1/5/24]
  • Rodgers has appeared on podcasts known for promoting right-wing talking points and conspiracy theories

    • Podcaster Joe Rogan, who has argued multiple times that COVID-19 vaccines are “gene therapy” and smeared trans people, interviewed Rodgers for the second time in 2024. Rogan claimed in 2021 that COVID-19 vaccines were “gene therapy” and argued that trans women “use male tactics and male behavior as they invade feminist spaces.” Rogan has also praised Sandy Hook truther Alex Jones. Rodgers previously sat down with Rogan in 2022 to promote COVID-19 misinformation. [Spotify, The Joe Rogan Experience, 8/20/21, 8/20/21, 2/7/24; Salon, 8/30/22]
    • Flat-earther and QAnon promoter Eddie Bravo has pushed numerous outlandish conspiracy theories over the years including in his interview with Rodgers. For instance, Bravo spread conspiracy theories asserting that the earth is flat, claimed that photos from NASA are CGI, and lauded the QAnon community during appearances on The Joe Rogan Experience. Bravo also promoted conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook shooting on Infowars and argued that all vaccines are designed to kill people. He currently operates a conspiracy theory-focused podcast called Look Into it, where he interviewed Rodgers. [Vice, 4/19/17; Spotify, The Joe Rogan Experience, 1/9/20; Look Into It, 2/23/24; Genesis Communications Networks, The Alex Jones Show, 3/8/17]
    • Former Fox host Tucker Carlson interviewed Rodgers for roughly two hours on his X podcast. Carlson spent years advancing the conspiracy theory that Democrats are using immigration to replace white American voters, as well as numerous other conspiracy theories, including that the January 6 attack on the Capitol was a “false flag” operation. Since leaving Fox, Carlson has started a podcast on X (formerly known as Twitter) where he’s promoted the conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama had a homosexual affair. [Media Matters, 10/28/21; Tucker Carlson Network, The Tucker Carlson Encounter, 9/6/23]
  • Rodgers pushed a range of conspiracy theories and misinformation on these shows, such as calling vaccines “gene therapy” and suggesting there is a massive coverup behind the construction of some of the world’s most remarkable buildings

    • Across multiple interviews, Rodgers argued that COVID-19 vaccines were “experimental gene therapy.” During his appearance on Bravo’s podcast, he stated, “There's a video you can find. I mean, not that they totally scrubbed it, but he basically admits, if we had called this what it is, ‘experimental gene therapy,’ maybe 5% of people would have signed up for it.” He told Carlson, “They admitted early on if they’d called this ‘experimental gene therapy’ nobody would’ve taken it. So they called it a vaccine and they changed the definition of ‘vaccine.’” COVID-19 vaccines use a fragment of mRNA to instruct the body to make an immune response against COVID-19, which does not have any effect on genes or DNA. [Look Into It, 2/23/24; Tucker Carslon Network, The Tucker Carlson Show, 5/14/24; Scientific American, 1/4/24]
    • When discussing alleged vaccine side effects with Carlson, Rodgers suggested that COVID-19 vaccines caused miscarriages in pregnant women. He argued, “The studies just came out about pregnant women, where 44% of the women in the study had miscarriages who were given the vaccine.” There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines increase the risk of miscarriage. [Tucker Carlson Network, The Tucker Carlson Show, 5/14/24; National Library of Medicine, 5/2/23]
    • Rodgers stated that vaccines were “super toxic” and that many that were distributed were actually saline injections. “There were many batches that were super toxic and deadly and many batches that were, perhaps, saline and didn’t cause any adverse effects, but the interesting thing around vaccines—” Rodgers said before Carlson cut him off. Carlson asked, “Do you think that the drug makers knew they were giving out saline vaccines?” He responded, “Oh, I mean, that’s pure conjecture, I think. I have read things about the amount of vaccines that went out wouldn’t have been possible to produce that, to that level, so there may have been some knowledge around that.” There’s no evidence of a major rollout of saline injections and according to the Centers for Disease Control, COVID-19 vaccines are safe. [Tucker Carlson Network, The Tucker Carlson Show, 5/14/24; Reuters, 7/27/21; Centers for Disease Control, 11/3/23]
    • Rodgers claimed it’s suspicious that sometimes vote counting can take a long time and complained that sometimes leads in tight races change as votes are counted. Rodgers said, “Whether it's Bush/Gore in Florida or a bunch of the swing states this last election where they couldn't get the votes counted until, you know, a day after, two days after, a week after, they're still going through this stuff — that's crazy. It should make people go, ‘Something's going on here.’ They stop, they call the race, the counting, at three in the morning, and you wake up the next day and it's totally flipped.” According to The Associated Press, “While media outlets routinely project winners … no state releases complete and final results on election night, nor have they ever done so in modern history, according to experts.” [Look Into it, 2/23/24; The Associated Press, 8/5/22]
    • After Rogan complained about treating gender dysphoria in children by allowing them to transition, Rodgers argued that “they” are going after kids because “there’s huge money in it.” He stated, “I don't know why they're just so hell-bent on going after the kids. Obviously, there's huge money in it.” Rogan responded, “I think it's money, and it's also the waving the flag of woke, you know. I mean, it's just, it's crazy.” Rodgers did not elaborate on who “they” are or how “they” derive profit from the small number of people who begin medical transition as minors. [Spotify, The Joe Rogan Experience, 2/7/24; Reuters, 10/6/22]
    • Rodgers expressed interest in the Tartaria conspiracy theory, which asserts that pre-modern buildings were actually built by an ancient, highly technologically advanced civilization. Tartaria is the conspiracy theory that a long-deceased civilization (possibly of giants) actually constructed many of the world’s most remarkable buildings, such as the Pyramids and the White House. “If they can lie about that, what else can they lie about?” Rodgers said. He did not specify who “they” are before explaining why he thought the theory mattered “There’s been probably thousands and thousands and thousands and tens and hundreds of thousands, maybe, years of extremely advanced civilizations. And why does that change things? Because everything they told us could be a lie.” [Look Into It, 2/23/24; The Daily Beast, 3/9/24]
    • Rodgers claimed it was “very suspicious” how the U.S. government handled Pat Tillman's uniform and accused it of confiscating his last journal. Tillman was an NFL player who left the league to enlist in the military following 9/11 and was killed in a friendly fire incident. “His death is very suspicious as well, in that, not the fact we know he was killed by friendly fire but the way they handled his body afterwards, his uniform, confiscating his last journal. Using his death to prop up the war propaganda.” There’s no evidence Tillman’s journal was confiscated, and the Department of Defense has claimed that unit personnel were unable to locate it following Tillman’s death. Tillman’s uniform was destroyed as a biohazard. [Tucker Carlson Network, The Tucker Carlson Show, 5/14/24; Sportskeeda, 5/14/24]