Amid the ongoing Joe Rogan’s Spotify controversy related to COVID-19 misinformation, the podcaster took to Instagram on Saturday, February 5, 2022, to issue an apology after another video compilation of him using the n-word frequently in his podcasts went viral on social media.
In response to the viral video of him repeatedly saying a racial slur, Rogan stated that it is “the most regretful and shameful thing I’ve ever had to talk about publicly” adding that the said footage had been taken completely out of context. “I know that to most people, there is no context where a white person is ever allowed to say that word, never mind publicly on a podcast. And I agree with that now,” Rogan elucidated.
“I haven’t said it in years. But for a long time… instead of saying the n-word, I would just say the word. I thought as long as it was in context, people would understand what I was doing.” He reiterated that “It’s not my word to use… I never used it to be racist, because I’m not racist, but whenever you’re in a situation where you have to say ‘I’m not racist,’ you’ve f***ed up, and I clearly have f***ed up.”
He also talked about the part of a compilation in which he termed a Black neighborhood as Planet of the Apes. “I did not nor would I ever say that Black people are apes, but it sure f***in’ sounded like that,” he stated. “It wasn’t a racist story, but it sounded terrible… It looks terrible even in context.” He also stated that he wanted others to learn from his mistake as well. “It makes me sick watching that video, but hopefully at least some of you will accept this and understand where I’m coming from,” he added. “My sincere, deepest apologies, and much love.”
The stand-up comedian used the racial word in excess of 20 times in different clips taken from various podcast episodes, which, according to him, were collected over a 12 years span.
The compilation was posted by songwriter India Arie on her Instagram account, which, the Grammy-winner stated that while she commiserates with artists who demanded their songs to be taken off from Spotify due to Covid-19 misinformation aired on Joe Rogen’s show, she’s also registering her protest for his racial language.
Four days after removing her songs from Spotify, Arie came back to address the issue on her Instagram Story. “Hey, y’all. I’m going to leave a short message here about why I decided to … ask my music be pulled off of Spotify,”
Joe “shouldn’t even be uttering the word,” Arie stated. “Don’t even say it, under any context. Don’t say it. That’s where I stand. I have always stood there.”
The COVID-19 misinformation matter was initially highlighted by Neil Young on January 24, 2022, when the singer announced that he wanted his songs removed from Spotify because it hosts the podcast of Joe Rogan, “The Joe Rogan Experience.” Young’s claim about Rogan’s podcast for “spreading false information about vaccines,” caused a ripple effect as other co-artists, along with the streamer itself, have reacted.
Here are the latest developments in the controversy:
Rumble tries to pull Joe Rogan away from Spotify
Chris Pavlovski, tech entrepreneur tweeted an offer to Rogan on February 7, to join his relatively smaller, yet fast-growing platform that’s famous between conservatives, for similar benefit. “We stand with you, your guests, and your legion of fans in desire for real conversation,” Pavlovski shared an open letter to Rogan. “How about you bring all your shows to Rumble, both new and old, with no censorship, for $100 million bucks over four years? This is our chance to save the world. And yes, this is totally legit.”
— Rumble (@rumblevideo) February 7, 2022
Andrew Yang, a politician make an apology for Rogan justification
I like to believe the best of people – especially if I’ve met and spent time with that person. Sometimes it makes me miss something. I think we should have the capacity to forgive people – whether a podcaster or a mayor – if they mess up. Maybe it’s because I mess up too.
— Andrew Yang🧢⬆️🇺🇸 (@AndrewYang) February 7, 2022
Former Democratic presidential candidate Yang, who featured on Rogan’s podcast in 2019, had shared on Twitter on February 6 that Rogan has previously worked with Black people. “I don’t think Joe Rogan is a racist — the man interacts with and works with Black people literally all of the time,” he shared.
However, the tweet was later deleted and Yang shared a new post later that night, which he started saying, “I like to believe the best of people — especially if I’ve met and spent time with that person. Sometimes it makes me miss something. I think we should have the capacity to forgive people — whether a podcaster or a mayor — if they mess up. Maybe it’s because I mess up too.” He further added, “Racism is real, deep, corrosive and even lethal. I know that. I made a mistake in an earlier tweet tonight that downplayed these realities” and reflected and apologized stating that his previous tweet was “wrong-headed” and “hurt people.”
Spotify CEO says Rogan’s racial slurs were upsetting, but he doesn’t think Joe should be silenced
Daniel Ek, Spotify CEO described Rogan’s use of racial language slurs as “Incredibly hurtful.” in a February 6, staff memo, obtained by CNN Business. Notwithstanding that, Ek stated he did not consider “silencing” the podcaster as the solution. He vowed for an “incremental investment of $100 million for the licensing, development, and marketing of music (artists and songwriters) and audio content from historically marginalized groups.” Moreover, Ek also stated his company had been discussing the content of previous videos with Rogan and his camp. “Following these discussions and his own reflections,” Ek stated, “he chose to remove a number of episodes from Spotify.” In excess of 100 episodes in total have been removed.
The Rock withdraws his support for Rogan
Thank you so much for this
I hear you as well as everyone here 100%
I was not aware of his N word use prior to my comments, but now I’ve become educated to his complete narrative.
Learning moment for me.
Mahalo, brother and have a great & productive weekend.
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) February 5, 2022
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson responded to a question about his previous post supporting Rogan on February 4, after a fan commented that it was a “terrible use” of his “power” defending Rogan to which the superstar stated, “I hear you as well as everyone here 100%.” He further added, “I was not aware of his N-word use prior to my comments, but now I’ve become educated to his complete narrative. Learning moment for me.”
Jon Stewart claims Rogan ‘overreaction’ is ‘a mistake’
On February 3, Jon Stewart, a former host of The Daily Show also shared his views on his podcast, The Problem With Jon Stewart, when his co-host asked for his comments. “Don’t leave. Don’t abandon. Don’t censor. Engage,” he started his argument. “I’m not saying it’s always going to work out fruitfully. But I am always of the mindset that engagement, and especially with someone like a Joe Rogan, who is not, in my mind, an ideologue in any way.”
Stewart stated that Rogan had already taken the corrective action on air previously, after getting confronted by a guest. Later, they discussed the matter related to vaccines and concluded that in fact, Rogan was incorrect. Stewart raised a question asking how much misinformation is shared by Eric Clapton, for instance, who is a vaccine doubter, and called the singer an ‘f****** psycho.’ “There’s no question that there is egregious misinformation that’s purposeful and hateful and all those other things, and that being moderated is a credit to the platforms that run them,” Stewart stated. “But this overreaction to Rogan, I think, is a mistake.”
Joe Rogan comes back to Spotify
Amid Stewart’s defense of Rogan, he returned to Spotify to release the first episode of his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, since the beginning of this controversy. Andy Stumpf, a retired Navy SEAL, joined him as the guest who’d been appearing with Rogan before. They briefly talked about the Spotify events. “I put out a video a couple of days ago, other than that, not much I can do,” Rogan stated. “When you’re hearing it from people who are losing the information attention game — people like CNN — when they’re calling for other networks or shows to be censored or limited, it’s like, ‘Just do better.'”
Spotify fears lesser growth in the number of subscribers during the next quarter
Spotify saw its paid subscription base growing from 172 million to 180 million during the final quarter of 2021, as revealed in the feature of The Hollywood Reporter on February 2. However, it is estimated that during the first quarter of 2022 the subscriber number would increase at a slower rate reaching 183 million. However, Spotify CEO, Daniel Ek, stated that was “too early to know” to what extent Rogan’s controversy would affect the subscribers base.
Spotify CEO elucidates the company’s stance on Rogan its employees
Ek accentuated to employees the same day, during an in-house meeting, that the platform doesn’t possess the editorial rights of Joe Rogan Experience, as revealed by The Verge. “I understand the premise that because we have an exclusive deal with him, it’s really easy to conclude we endorse every word he says and believe the opinions expressed by his guests,” Ek apparently held. “That’s absolutely not the case.”
Ek also clarified that Rogan’s content is licensed. “We don’t approve his guests in advance, and just like any other creator, we get his content when he publishes, and then we review it, and if it violates our policies, we take the appropriate enforcement actions.” Furthermore, he stated that Spotify has previously removed a slew of episodes of Rogan’s podcast. “There are many things that Joe Rogan says that I strongly disagree with and find very offensive.” He further added, however, “If we want even a shot at achieving our bold ambitions, it will mean having content on Spotify that many of us may not be proud to be associated with. Not anything goes, but there will be opinions, ideas, and beliefs that we disagree with strongly and even makes us angry or sad.”
White House appreciates Spotify disclaimer being a ‘positive step’
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, addressed the Spotify situation in a press briefing with reporters on February 2. She stated, “Our hope is that all major tech platforms and all major news sources, for that matter, be responsible and be vigilant to ensure the American people have access to accurate information on something as significant as COVID-19.”
“That certainly includes Spotify. So this disclaimer, it’s a positive step, but we want every platform to continue doing more to call out misinformation and disinformation while also uplifting accurate information.”
Crosby, Stills Nash, and Young release a collaborative statement to Spotify
The band members demanded that their records as a band, as well as the songs of Crosby, Stills and Nash, Crosby-Nash, and any other single projects of members that hadn’t been removed already, must be taken off. “We support Neil and we agree with him that there is dangerous disinformation being aired on Spotify’s Joe Rogan podcast,” they stated in their joint statement on February 2. “While we always value alternate points of view, knowingly spreading disinformation during this global pandemic has deadly consequences. Until real action is taken to show that a concern for humanity must be balanced with commerce, we don’t want our music — or the music we made together — to be on the same platform.”
Sharon Stone, AIDS activist slams Rogan
Sharon Stone, the winner of the Nobel Peace Summit Award for her efforts in fighting against AIDS, also tweeted that she stands in support of Young and has decided to cancel her Spotify accounts. Later, on February 1, she further commented on the controversy when approached by TMZ. “Mr. Rogan is risking people’s lives with his idiocy and his professing that his thoughts about COVID are opinions. They aren’t opinions,” Stone stated. “COVID and infectious disease are science, and they are fact-based situations. So the pretense that these are opinions is dangerous, and his behavior is dangerous. And so the pretense that these are opinions and that he should put a disclaimer… he should put a disclaimer that he’s an asshole.”
Writer Roxane Gay takes off her podcast, while Brené Brown stays ‘hopeful’ hers will come back next week
It won’t move any sort of needle but I removed my podcast from Spotify. That’s all there really is to say about that. Onward.
— roxane gay (@rgay) February 1, 2022
Roxane Gay, the author of Bad Feminist also came forward and stated that she would no longer offer her podcast to Spotify. “It won’t move any sort of needle but I removed my podcast from Spotify,” she wrote. “That’s all there really is to say about that. Onward.”
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Brene Brown, on the same day, enlightened that she has been asked to comment on the controversy by several people. She previously stated on January 29 that she would “not be releasing any podcasts until further notice,” in the wake of the Rogan controversy, but didn’t claim it as the reason for her decision.
However, she has now clarified, “I paused because, as a creator with two podcasts exclusively on Spotify, I wanted to better understand the organization’s misinformation policy. I wanted to talk to the Spotify leadership about their position, their policies, and the application of those policies. I met with them twice last week and once again this week. I’ve listened, they’ve listened, and my assessment is that everyone is open and learning — including me.”
Brown also stated that her post “turned into a s***show,” with her getting the accusations from people to censor Rogan. She reiterated that the hiatus was in support of her work as she wanted a balance of “addressing the complex misinformation issues we face today while respecting free speech.” She also stated that the new misinformation policy of Spotify “appears to address the majority of my concerns,” and she was “in the process of learning how the policy will be applied.” She remained “hopeful” that her podcasts would “be back next week.”
More than 93K people join hands to sign a petition against Rogan
“Joe Rogan Has Got to Go,” a petition on the MoveOn.Org had dramatically grown from just 10 signatures on January 25 to 93,000 on February 1.
Graham Nash supports Neil Young
Graham Nash also came forward on social media against Spotify, after he settled with his former members Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. “Having heard the Covid disinformation spread by Joe Rogan on Spotify, I completely agree with and support my friend, Neil Young,” he stated. “There is a difference between being open to varying viewpoints on a matter and knowingly spreading false information which some 270 medical professionals have derided not only false but dangerous. Likewise, there is a difference between misinformation, in which one is unaware that what is being said is false, versus disinformation which is knowingly false and intended to mislead and sway [public] opinion. In this case, in a way that could cost people their lives.”
Mary Trump takes off her and decides to be ‘part of a growing avalanche’
The host of The Mary Trump Show and the niece of Donald Trump also joined the stream of artists leaving Spotify. “I’m removing my podcast from @Spotify,” she shared a tweet on February 1. “I know it’s not a big deal but hope it will be part of a growing avalanche. She thanked Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Nils Lofgren for their “courage in leading the way.”
I’m removing my podcast from @Spotify. I know it’s not a big deal but hope it will be part of a growing avalanche. Thank you to #NeilYoung, @jonimitchell, and @nilslofgren for your courage in leading the way.
— Mary L Trump (@MaryLTrump) February 2, 2022
During the January 31 episode of The Daily Show, host Trevor Noah recapitulated all the situations of Rogan and Spotify. He condemned the false statements shared in the podcast, while also appreciating Rogan for inviting guests on his show who don’t agree with him. Noah also lauded Rogan for his response. “I actually thought it was pretty classy,” he stated. He also said on a lighter note that he expected Rogan to claim that someone had hacked his account. The fact that Rogan accepted his mistake was “pretty dope” and “refreshing,” Noah stated.
Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock lauds Rogan for his ‘perfectly articulated’ video reply
“Great stuff here brother,” the super-star commented on Rogan’s post. “Perfectly articulated. Look forward to coming on one day and breaking out the tequila with you,” stated Johnson, who is the founder of Teremana Tequila.
India Arie takes off her Spotify content
“I have decided to pull my music and podcast from Spotify,” the singer announced on January 31. “Neil Young opened a door that I MUST walk through.” While Arie stated that she’s a firm believer in freedom of speech, she claimed that Rogan didn’t sound problematic just for his COVID-19 misinformation but also for his “language around race.” She added, “What I am talking about is RESPECT – who gets it and who doesn’t. Paying musicians a Fraction of a penny? And HIM $100M? This shows the type of company they are and the company that they keep. I’m tired.”
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Wendy Zukerman labels Spotify’s defense of Rogan as ‘a slap in the face
The host of the Science Vs podcast, which claims to “blow up your firmly held opinions and replace them with science” backed by fact-checking, and the show editor, Blythe Terrell, revealed a letter that the duo stated they’d forwarded to Daniel Ek, Spotify CEO. “Throughout the pandemic, Spotify has given Science Vs the resources we needed to produce accurate content about the coronavirus. For more than six months, we’ve been encouraging our listeners to move to Spotify and telling them that this is the company that supports us to create factual episodes that are grounded in science,” they stated in a post on January 31. “Spotify’s support of Joe Rogan’s podcast has felt like a slap in the face.” Spotify’s new rules don’t address the problem, they stated. The duo also promised that they wouldn’t make more episodes of the podcast, “except those intended to counteract misinformation being spread on Spotify,” unless the platform “implements stronger methods to prevent the spread of misinformation on the platform.”
Rogan pledges to ‘try to balance out these more controversial viewpoints’
Joe Rogan, who apparently signed a $100 million distribution deal with Spotify, retorted to the controversy surrounding his famous podcast on January 30, in a video.
“I’m not trying to promote misinformation,” he stated. “I’m not trying to be controversial. I’ve never tried to do anything with this podcast other than just talk to people and have interesting conversations.” While Rogan accepted that he gets things wrong occasionally, he stated he tries to take corrective actions. Rogan vowed to try and “balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people’s perspectives, so we can maybe find a better point of view.” Nevertheless, he continued defending his decision to invite an infamous guest, Dr. Robert Malone, who, according to him, is “highly credentialed” and holds a viewpoint “different from the mainstream narrative.”
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The popular couple also shared their concern on January 30, about the stance of Spotify on misinformation spread, when they officially communicated their stance through a spokesperson, “Last April, our co-founders began expressing concerns to our partners at Spotify about the all too real consequences of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform. We have continued to express our concerns to Spotify to ensure changes to its platform are made to help address this public health crisis. We look to Spotify to meet this moment and are committed to continuing our work together as it does.” The duo holds an exclusive agreement with the platform to produce and host shows that “build community through shared experience, narratives, and values.”
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, on the same day on January 30, shared a statement on the platform rules of the company. “Based on the feedback over the last several weeks, it’s become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to widely-accepted information from the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this unprecedented time,” he stated about the COVID-19 pandemic. “These issues are incredibly complex.”
Ek also shared that Spotify is as well working to implement a content advisory to podcast episodes that include a discussion of the deadly virus that will lead the listeners to a COVID-19 information platform, which will contain “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.”
Joni Mitchell and other content creators back Young
The podcaster, Brené Brown announced to the fans on January 29 that she will “not be releasing any podcasts until further notice.” Even though the Brown from Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead, did not tell any specific reason for the pause, it appears that the timing of her this news cardinally lines up with the recent controversy by Rogan. Many of the fans have lauded this move in their comments, mentioning that she was courageous to take the stand rather than staying silent, about which she has been vocal in the past.
Nils Lofgren Young also followed the same day, one of the fellows of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, in asking Spotify to remove his music from the platform.
On January 24, Young posted a letter on his website, which got deleted, later on, stating the facts and reasons why he wanted to take his music off Spotify, as long as Rogan’s popular podcast is there. “I am doing this because Spotify is spreading false information about vaccines — potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them,” he wrote. Spotify soon accommodated.
Stay awkward, brave, and kind. ❤️👊🏼❤️
— Brené Brown (@BreneBrown) January 29, 2022
Joni Mitchell, songwriter, and singer was the first famous name in doing the same
The singer of “Big Yellow Taxi” noted on her website: “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.” Moreover, she also posted a letter which was signed by scientists and medical professionals in hundreds, who said that Rogan had “repeatedly spread misleading and false claims” to his listeners that are in millions of numbers.
When musician David Crosby was questioned if he also would be asking to get his music to be deleted from the platform, he replied, “I no longer control it or I would in support of Neil.”
COVID-19 and racial abuse are among the two most burning issues of the modern world and Joe Rogan seemed to have triggered both. Celebrities must think twice while advocating a certain stance and sharing sensitive information, keeping in view that millions of people around the globe can listen to them and draw conclusions.
Moreover, delicate matters like racism must also be taken care of, no matter how much you believe in freedom of speech. At the end of the day, hurting someone for their color, race, or religious beliefs is not ethical and humane at all.