Joe Rogan walks back controversial anti-vaccine comments: "I'm not a doctor, I'm a f**king moron"

“I guess my first question would be, 'Did Joe Rogan become a medical doctor while we weren’t looking?'"

Published April 29, 2021 10:32PM (EDT)

Podcast host Joe Rogan (Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images)
Podcast host Joe Rogan (Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images)

Following high-profile pushback from White House officials, popular podcast host Joe Rogan walked back a series of recent controversial anti-vaccination comments, saying that he is "not a respected source of information." 

During a recent episode of his show, "The Joe Rogan Experience," the host suggested that younger listeners did not need to get a COVID-19 vaccine if they were otherwise healthy.

"People say, 'Do you think it's safe to get vaccinated?' I've said, 'Yeah, I think, for the most part, it's safe to get vaccinated,'" Rogan said on his podcast, which is distributed exclusively by the streaming giant Spotify. "But if you're like 21 years old, and you say to me, 'Should I get vaccinated?' I'll go, 'No.'"

"If you're a healthy person, and you're exercising all the time, and you're young and you're eating well, I don't think you need to worry about this."

The comments sparked a firestorm of criticism, including from officials at the highest levels of government.

"I guess my first question would be, 'Did Joe Rogan become a medical doctor while we weren't looking?'" White House communications director Kate Bedingfield asked. "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."

Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, told NBC News that Rogan was talking about himself "in a vacuum" — making the point that while vaccines can protect recipients from infection, it is important to prevent the spread of the virus to vulnerable populations.

As the former "Fear Factor" host and UFC color commentator addressed the criticism Thursday on another episode of his show, reiterating that he is "not an anti-vaxx person."

"I believe they're safe, and I encourage many people to take them — my parents were vaccinated," Rogan said. "Their argument was you need it for other people . . . But that's a different argument. That's a different conversation."

He also deflected blame for the incident, adding that it was blown out of proportion by clickbait headlines.

"I'm not a doctor, I'm a f**king moron. I'm not a respected source of information — even for me," he said. "But I at least try to be honest about what I'm saying."

Rogan also told listeners that he had been scheduled to receive a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before authorities announced a pause on the company's rollout. 

It was the latest controversy for Rogan, who signed a blockbuster $100 million deal last year with Spotify, which thrust the technology giant into the middle of a debate over its responsibility for the information — and misinformation — being distributed by one of its marquee personalities. Spotify noted in an earnings report published this week that the company's strong growth can partially be attributed to the performance of "The Joe Rogan Experience," according to Axios.

The company faced pushback in the past for Rogan's interviews with the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, as well as misinformation about West Coast wildfires. He's also been accused of trafficking in racism, Islamophobia and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric at various moments in his podcast career.

Spotify did remove Pete Evans, another podcast host, from its platform earlier this year for "dangerous, false, deceptive, misleading content about COVID-19."

You can watch the video below via YouTube

By Brett Bachman

Brett Bachman was the Nights/Weekend Editor at Salon.

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