Fox News Largely Defends Joe Rogan Amid Spotify N-Word, COVID Controversy

Fox News hosts have mostly supported popular podcaster Joe Rogan after Spotify removed some of his past episodes over COVID-19 misinformation and use of the n-word.

Rogan, his podcast The Joe Rogan Experience and Spotify have all come under fire for spreading COVID misinformation and for his use of the racial slur. Spotify has begun placing a "content advisory" on Rogan's episodes covering COVID. The streaming service also pulled 70 of Rogan's past episodes after a viral video featured a supercut of Rogan repeatedly using the n-word, an anti-Black racial slur.

Fox News, which regularly rails against "cancel culture" and accuses liberals of actively silencing political voices, has maintained this position in its recent discussion of Rogan's podcast.

Fox News Joe Rogan Spotify COVID n-word
Fox News hosts have mainly backed podcaster Joe Rogan after Spotify removed several of his episodes for COVID misinformation and use of the n-word. Above, Rogan performs during his appearance at The Ice House Comedy Club on November 1, 2017, in Pasadena, California. Michael Schwartz / WireImage/Getty

On Monday, Fox News host Greg Gutfeld said the supercut of Rogan repeatedly using the n-word had been taken out of context and would look "less bad" when put back into the dialogue of the shows.

"I noticed that there aren't a lot of Blacks caring about this story," Gutfeld said. "It's only white liberals and white leftists who want to bring down Rogan. And I think maybe it's because Blacks see that the word is being used as a tool. Not the word being offensive itself, but the fact that ... this is manufactured for a different mission than the rejection of the word: It's about going after somebody."

On Monday, Fox News host Sean Hannity said that no one should say the n-word and noted that Rogan had apologized, echoing Gutfeld's statement that the video had shown Rogan using the slur out of context.

"If you don't like any of these shows, you don't have to watch them ... turn the channel," Hannity said. "Sadly, with many on the left, all they want to do is just want to silence, cancel, boycott and end all dissent. Most people also feign outrage when they're not actually offended. They use censorship as a political tool, often to cancel conservatives," he said.

In the Tuesday broadcast of Fox & Friends, Will Cain, co-host of Fox & Friends Weekend, called the backlash against Rogan, "a coordinated attack against someone who committed the cardinal sin of independent thought."

"He represents independence," Cain continued, "and we need someone like that to chart a course that brings an audience that helps tear down this really rotten and corrupt, not just political economy, but corporate economy that's now sold out basic fundamentals of Western civilization."

In his past podcasts, Rogan actively discouraged young people from getting the COVID vaccine, pushed the anti-parasite medication Ivermectin as a possible treatment and provided a platform for COVID conspiracy theorists.

On Rogan's podcast, Dr. Peter McCullough, a cardiologist, called COVID vaccines "experimental" and said the pandemic was "planned."

Also on Rogan's podcast, Dr. Robert Malone, a biochemist, pushed an unfounded theory of "mass-formation psychosis," saying it had resulted in a "third of the population basically being hypnotized" by government and media messaging promoting vaccines. Malone also compared government COVID prevention measures to Nazi policies, something Holocaust survivors and the Jewish community have repeatedly pleaded for people to stop doing.

As reports of Rogan's COVID misinformation spread, the following public figures paused their audio on Spotify or requested it to be pulled from the streaming service altogether: Music legends Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash; social science researcher Brené Brown; essayist Roxane Gay; and former President Donald Trump's niece Mary Trump.

In response, Spotify announced that it would put a "content advisory" on "any podcast episode that includes a discussion about COVID-19." The advisory doesn't mention misinformation. Instead, it points listeners to Spotify's COVID-19 Information Hub, which contains audio from sources such as the World Health Organization, The Mayo Clinic and the BBC.

More recently, Rogan was slammed for using the n-word in his past broadcasts. Last Friday, Spotify removed the podcast episodes, though it's unclear how many contained the slur.

In a memo to employees released around February 6, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek wrote that Rogan's slurs were "incredibly hurtful" and "do not represent the values of this company." However, Ek noted Rogan's apology for the slurs and added, "I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer ... Canceling voices is a slippery slope."

However, the larger issue for some isn't Rogan's right to spread misinformation or say the n-word, but Spotify's reported $100 million deal to obtain exclusive streaming rights to Rogan's podcast, helping it reach beyond the podcast's estimated 11 million listeners. Such platforming normalizes Rogan's content, challenging efforts to promote the vaccine and combat racist content.

Using this line of reasoning, in mid-January, 270 doctors, physicians and science educators signed an open letter calling on Spotify to mitigate the spread of misinformation by Rogan and others. While Spotify has stood by its decision to continue hosting Rogan's content, his past and future statements will likely gain greater scrutiny as pundits discuss its political significance.

Newsweek contacted Fox News for comment.