COVID Misinformation Shouldn’t Have Been What Caught Our Attention About Joe Rogan

Sara Hagen
5 min readJun 16, 2022


Once in the 90s, we saw Joe Rogan on television and mostly ignored him in favor of the spectacle of whatever game the Fear Factor contestants were playing that episode.

Older generations may have just heard of him. Joe Rogan has gained unprecedented popularity thanks to artists like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Last week, Neil Young demanded that his musicography be removed from Spotify due to the platform’s continuing partnership with The Joe Rogan Experience (JRE) amid Rogan’s ongoing COVID misinformation controversy. Joni Mitchell joined Young in demanding the removal of her music shortly after Young’s announcement.

A statement from Mitchell’s website:

“I’ve decided to remove all my music from Spotify. Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives. I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.”

After gaining the attention of mainstream media, we were waiting to see if Spotify would make its move. A few days ago, on February 5, Spotify removed 70 episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience from the platform.

None of those episodes mentioned COVID at all. They were all published before 2020.

A few days earlier, artist India Arie announced the situation to her Instagram followers, citing another primary reason to boycott JR.

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Dangerous conspiracy theories


Spotify’s platform rules prohibit

Content that incites violence or hatred towards a person or group of people based on race, religion, gender identity or expression, sex, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, age, disability or other characteristics associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization includes, but may not be limited to:

- praising, supporting, or calling for violence against a person or group of people based on the characteristics listed above

- dehumanizing statements about a person or group based on the protected characteristics listed above

- promoting or glorifying hate groups and their associated images, and/or symbols

According to a letter to the platform’s shareholders in February 2021,

“In December, The Joe Rogan Experience became exclusive to Spotify, driving a meaningful uptick in audience for the show on our platform. As of year-end, The Joe Rogan Experience was the #1 podcast on our platform in 17 markets. While it remains early days, we are very encouraged by the performance of this content since its arrival on our platform, as it has stimulated new user additions, activated first time podcast listeners, and driven favorable engagement trends, including vodcast consumption.”

All of this inspires the question, why is this man the top podcast on Spotify? Who listens to him, and what is his appeal?

I see people like Jim Gaffigan, who I believe to be a liberal by all indications, appearing on The Joe Rogan Experience, and I’m disappointed. There’s no way to beat around the bush here: Being a guest on the podcast is a huge way of supporting and promoting Rogan.

Other notable and personally disappointing names who’ve been guests on JRE include Michael Pollan, Iliza Shlesinger, Whitney Cummings, Reggie Watts (multiple), Matthew McConaughey, Edward Snowden, Miley Cyrus, Rob Lowe, Bob Saget, Patton Oswalt, Fortune Feimster, Robert Downey Jr, Nikki Glaser, and Bernie Sanders. A lot of 90’s childhoods took a hit when Jewel commented encouragingly on his apology video.

It is essential to note that many public figures and experts have been featured on JRE. This is not necessarily a reflection of their values or belief systems.

In political contrast with the names above, Rogan has had people like Alex Jones, Jordan Peterson, and Tim Poole as guests.

According to a survey by Media Monitors, Rogan’s viewership is 71% male. The guests on his show are almost entirely men. Young Millennial and Gen-Z men are searching for the fervor and vitriol that previous generations had for people like Rush Limbaugh, but it doesn’t look quite the same.

His political beliefs are unaligned (or so he would like you to think), which can be attractive and dangerous. Being an unaligned outcast was one of Trump’s major election strategies in 2016. Despite being a sexual predator, mocking disabled people, racist, and so on, people didn’t care. He was refreshing, politically incorrect, and nonconforming to the laissez-faire politicians around him.

A major appeal of Rogan is his existence outside the political spectrum. He offers a facade of open-mindedness and free thinking. This is wonderful for listeners; they can now consume the absurdities and bigotry on JRE and be confident that they have no valid opinion; they are just open-minded.

Listeners can comfort themselves with the fact that people from all sides of the political spectrum are included on JRE. It’s not political; it’s just fun to listen to. After all, Rogan is just a comedian, right? Even when he presents himself as a confident subject matter expert in any number of topics.

In this corner of society, with a fan base dominated by men, we can also find a whole lot of white. Spotify recently removed over 100 episodes of JRE for violations of their policies. Many of these violations were uses of the n-word. From comparing Black neighborhoods to ‘Planet of the Apes’ and a montage of his uses of the n-word to this clip from his podcast with Dr. Cornel West, Rogan is all over the place ideologically. You could listen to that clip and come away with a lovely impression of Rogan. The clip shows him mhmming to everything that Dr. West has to say about white supremacy and resistance. A good look. And enough for some to ignore all the rest.

Trevor Noah commented on Rogan’s apology video after India Arie’s compilation of his use of the n-word went viral. In response to Rogan saying in the video, “ I wasn’t being racist, I was just being entertaining,” Noah said, “I think you were using racism to be entertaining.” He goes on, “I’m not saying you were trying to offend black people, by the way. But you knew that offending black people would get a laugh out of those white friends that you were with.”



Sara Hagen

Writer specializing in advocating for marginalized people.