Joe Rogan: Spotify and Neil Young controversy explained, podcast host’s Covid vaccine views - and who is he?

Rogan has been accused of spreading misinformation after previously suggesting the young and healthy should not get vaccinated

<p>Joe Rogan (left) has regularly caused controversy with his ‘outspoken’ views on Covid-19, leading to prominent figures to call for his removal from Spotify - including Neil Young (Photos: Getty Images) </p>

Joe Rogan (left) has regularly caused controversy with his ‘outspoken’ views on Covid-19, leading to prominent figures to call for his removal from Spotify - including Neil Young (Photos: Getty Images)

Podcast host Joe Rogan has said he will try to “balance out” the opinions expressed on his show following controversy around it spreading misinformation about Covid-19.

It comes following reports that Neil Young and a number of other high-profile musicians have requested their content be removed from Spotify, due to the platform’s hosting of the Joe Rogan podcast, which has been known to air vaccine-sceptical views.

In a video posted to Instagram, Rogan said he supported plans by the streaming giant to add content advisories to episodes that discuss Covid.

Responding to claims he has spread dangerous misinformation about the virus, the podcaster said he was “interested in having conversations with people that have differing opinions” and was not focused on “only talking to people that have one perspective”.

He apologised if he offended anyone and added that he “was not trying to promote misinformation” and said he would “try harder to get people with differing opinions” immediately after those with controversial opinions who appear.

But who is Joe Rogan? And why does the infamous podcaster cause so much controversy?

Here is everything you need to know about him.

Who is Joe Rogan?

Joe Rogan is perhaps best known for his chart topping podcast, but he began his career as a comedian and television presenter, and has also been a commentator for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

He began his comedy career in late 80s Boston, before moving to Los Angeles and signing an exclusive developmental deal with Disney.

He appeared on several television shows including baseball sitcom Hardball, and started working for UFC as an interviewer and colour commentator.

He released his first comedy special - titled ‘I’m Gonna Be Dead Someday...’ - in 2000, and from 2001 to 2006 was the host of the game show, Fear Factor.

Joe Rogan performing at a September 11 comedy benefit in 2001 (Photo: Jason Kirk/Getty Images)

Rogan married Jessica Ditzel, a former cocktail waitress, in 2009. The couple have two daughters, and Rogan is also a stepfather to Ditzel's daughter from a previous relationship

The same year, Rogan launched his Joe Rogan Experience podcast, and it soon developed a vast audience -a total of 1,770 episodes have been released so far.

The host invites a wide variety of guests on the show - from the likes of Elon Musk to US presidential candidates - including actors, musicians, authors, artists, scientists, and comedians.

The Joe Rogan Experience was acquired by Spotify in 2020, reportedly for more than $100 million (£77 million).

Announcing the news at the time, Rogan said: “[The Joe Rogan Experience] will remain FREE, and it will be the exact same show. It’s just a licensing deal, so Spotify won’t have any creative control over the show.

“They want me to just continue doing it the way I’m doing it right now.”

What are his views on Covid-19 vaccines?

Rogan has received significant criticism for misinformation spread through his podcast in regards to the Covid-19 pandemic, and attracted controversy for suggesting the young and healthy should not get vaccinated.

After he faced a backlash over his comments, he later claimed: “I’m not an anti-vax person.”

Recently, over 200 doctors, scientists, healthcare professionals and professors wrote an open letter to Spotify, raising their own concerns about the misinformation spread on Rogan’s podcast.

It read: “This is not only a scientific or medical concern; it is a sociological issue of devastating proportions and Spotify is responsible for allowing this activity to thrive on its platform.”

Joe Rogan at the UFC 269 ceremonial weigh-in in December 2021 (Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Both that letter and Neil Young’s specifically drew attention to an episode of the podcast where Rogan interviewed Dr Robert Malone.

Malone is a virologist who worked on the early research into the mRNA technology that’s behind several Covid vaccines, but who is now critical of them.

In the episode, Malone claimed that the vaccines put people who have already had Covid-19 at a higher risk - something which fact checkers have strongly disputed.

Malone also drew comparisons between the pandemic and the rise of the Nazism in 1930s Germany, and has since been banned from Twitter over the spread of misinformation.

Has Rogan ever had Covid-19?

Rogan contracted Covid-19 in September 2021, saying he fell ill after returning from a show in Florida, a virus hotspot at the time.

He had been travelling with his show Joe Rogan: The Sacred Clown Tour.

Rogan said he had a headache and was feeling “very weary” and “run down”, telling his 13.1 million Instagram followers he quarantined himself from his family and took a Covid test, which was positive.

He revealed he had been treated with a series of medications, including monoclonal antibodies and the steroid prednisone.

Rogan also said he was treated with ivermectin, a veterinary deworming agent formulated for use in cows and horses, and not approved for use against Covid-19 by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

What has Rogan said about the situation?

Rogan has said he is “not” trying to promote misinformation”, and said he would “try harder to get people with differing opinions” immediately after those with controversial opinions who appear on his podcast.

“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,” he said.

“I don’t want to just show the contrary opinion to what the narrative is. I want to show all kinds of opinions so that we can all figure out what’s going on and not just about Covid, but about everything about health, about fitness, wellness, the state of the world itself.”

What has Spotify said?

Spotify has said it aims to balance “both safety for listeners and freedom for creators”.

On Sunday 30 January, the streaming giant’s chief executive Daniel Ek issued a statement to say Spotify is working to add a content advisory to any podcast episode that includes a discussion about Covid-19.

Listeners who access content that talks about the virus would be directed to a dedicated website that “provides easy access to data-driven facts, up-to-date information as shared by scientists, physicians, academics and public health authorities around the world, as well as links to trusted sources”.

Ek added: “This new effort to combat misinformation will roll out to countries around the world in the coming days. To our knowledge, this content advisory is the first of its kind by a major podcast platform.”

He added: “We know we have a critical role to play in supporting creator expression while balancing it with the safety of our users.

“In that role, it is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them.”

Spotify’s rules for creators have also been made public for the first time, telling users that posting “dangerous content” which “promotes dangerous false or dangerous deceptive medical information that may cause offline harm or poses a direct threat to public health” is not permitted.

However, breaching these rules may not necessarily result in the “violative content being removed from Spotify”.

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