Joe Rogan may have got his big break as the handyman on News Radio, and may have become a fixture to the MMA public as one of the key members of the UFC broadcast booth, but his true skyrocket to fame and fortune has come on the back of podcasting.
The Joe Rogan Experience has become one of the most widely consumed shows in the world, with an estimated 11 million listeners an episode and 190 million downloads a month (at least as of 2019). And as such, he’s also become a lightening rod for controversy. All the more-so during the COVID-19 pandemic, where his self-stated interest in pursuing outsider viewpoints and opinions has resulted in accusations of promoting misinformation as to the origins of COVID-19, the safety of vaccines, and the effectiveness of potential treatments for the virus.
Most recently those positions created some notable backlash for his hosting platform, Spotify—with Neil Young removing his music from the service in protest of Rogan’s show. Young’s public statements reportedly led to a $2 billion loss in the streaming company’s stock value. Although other outlets have noted that Spotify’s stock was already in a slide at the time. Still, the longtime UFC commentator took to social media with a lengthy video explaining his feelings and how he plans to adjust going forward, hopefully to offer a more fair and balanced view.
“I wanted to make this video first of all, because I think there’s a lot of people that have a distorted perception of what I do—maybe based on sound bites or based on headlines of articles that are disparaging,” Rogan explained, while recording in his back yard.
“The podcast has been accused of spreading dangerous misinformation, specifically about two episodes,” Rogan continued, highlighting his conversations with cardiologist Dr. Peter McCullough and vaccine patent owner Dr. Robert Malone. “Both these people are very highly credentialed, very intelligent, very accomplished people. And they have an opinion that’s different from the mainstream narrative. I wanted to hear what their opinion is. I had them on, and because of that – those episodes in particular – those episodes were labeled as being ‘dangerous’—they had ‘dangerous misinformation’ in them.”
Rogan then went on to highlight his problems with the idea of ‘misinformation’, suggesting that people had been getting “banned” from social media just a few months ago for saying things like vaccinated people can still catch and spread COVID, or that “cloth masks don’t work,” or suggesting that “it’s possible COVID-19 came from a lab.” And now, to hear him tell it, all of those positions are widely published, and the first two even accepted as facts.
“All of those theories that, at one point in time were banned, were openly discussed by those two men that I had on my podcast—that had been accused of dangerous misinformation,” Rogan explained, by way of defending his past work.
He then went on to highlight the experts he’d talked to that were more in line with scientific consensus on COVID-19, including Dr. Sanjay Gupta and epidemiologist/Biden advisor, Dr. Michael Osterholm. Despite what Rogan suggests were good faith attempts to keep the conversation around the pandemic balanced, however, he did admit that there were steps he could take to improve his show.
“I do not know if they’re right. I don’t know, because I’m not a doctor, I’m not a scientist. I’m just a person that sits down and talks to people and has conversations with them. Do I get things wrong? Absolutely, I get things wrong. But I try to correct them. Whenever I get something wrong I try to correct it. Because I’m interested in telling the truth, I’m interested in finding out what the truth is...
“One of the things that Spotify wants to do, that I agree with, is at the beginning of these controversial podcasts – like, specifically, ones about COVID – is to put a disclaimer and say that you should speak with your physician, and that these people and the opinions that they express are contrary to the opinions of the consensus of experts—which I think is very important. Sure, have that on there, I’m very happy with that.
“Also, I think, if there’s anything I’ve done that I could do better, is have more experts with differing opinions right after I have the controversial ones. I would most certainly be open to doing that. And I would like to talk to some people that have differing opinions on those podcasts in the future. We’ll see.”
Rogan added that he’s very much still a Neil Young fan, and didn’t hold any hard feelings toward the artist—or toward Joni Mitchell, who followed Young’s example. Rogan also apologized to Spotify for the extra heat that they were getting on his behalf. And while he added that he believes his show’s conversational, casual nature is one of its strengths, he did sound at least open to the idea that he may need to do more research and prep for guests, so that he could better steer the conversation.
“I don’t know what else I can do differently,” Rogan summed up. “Other than maybe try harder to get people with differing opinions on right afterwards. I do think that that’s important. And do my best to make sure I’ve researched these topics, the controversial ones in particular, and have all the pertinent facts at hand, before I discuss them. Again, I’m not trying to promote misinformation. I’m not trying to be controversial. I never tried to do anything with this podcast other than just talk to people and have interesting conversations...
“My pledge to you is that I will do my best to try to balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people’s perspectives, so we can maybe find a better point of view. I don’t want to just show the contrary opinion to what the narrative is. I want to show all kinds of opinions. So we can all figure out what’s going on. And not just about COVID, about everything—about health, about fitness, wellness, the state of the world itself.”