Joe Rogan Pushes Back on Spotify, Citing Newsweek Coverage of Wuhan Lab

Joe Rogan responded to claims that his Spotify podcast promoted COVID-19 misinformation by saying that theories change over time. As an example of how something that was considered misinformation "a short while ago is now accepted as fact," he cited Newsweek's coverage of the theory that the coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China.

In a statement on Sunday, Rogan discussed the evolving media narrative around many pandemic issues: "The problem I have with dangerous misinformation, especially today, is that many of the things we thought of as misinformation just a short while ago are now accepted as fact...

"If you said, 'I think it's possible that COVID-19 came from a lab, you would have been banned from many social media platforms but, now that's on the front cover of Newsweek."

Rogan implied that the story which appeared on the magazine's July 9, 2021 cover demonstrated the media's shifting narrative: in fact, Newsweek explored the Wuhan lab leak theory in April 2020, long before other media outlets started widely reporting on it.

On April 23, 2020 Newsweek published an article reporting that the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency updated its assessment of the origin of COVID to reflect that it may have been accidentally released from an infectious diseases lab.

There were several articles published during that period by Newsweek on the theory, including one from May 2020 reporting on a study that argued scientists should not rule out the possibility that the virus was made in a laboratory.

Newsweek has also published articles noting the changing position of senior health officials when it came to the origin of the virus. One article looked at what White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said about the Wuhan Lab Theory in 2020 and what he was saying in May 2021, when the article was published.

Newsweek covered the Wuhan lab theory as the story evolved, running fact-checks, reporting on developments in the investigations, and the political sparring that followed.

Former President Donald Trump was criticized as a conspiracy theorist and a racist for calling COVID "the Chinese virus" and promoting the theory that it may have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Social media platforms and many media outlets initially said it was "settled science" that Trump was incorrect. Now that framing has changed, with more reporting questioning the Wuhan lab and social media platforms no longer censoring posts on the subject.

Joe Rogan and Spotify vs. the world

Over on Spotify, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Bruce Springsteen guitarist Nils Lofgren have withdrawn their music from the platform in recent days, in protest of what has been widely criticized as COVID misinformation being expressed by guests on Rogan's podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience.

Rogan, who is also a comedian and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) color commentator, signed a reported $100 million deal in 2020 to give Spotify exclusive rights to his show, which is the most listened-to podcast on the platform. His show reaches an estimated 11 million listeners per episode.

Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle — who signed a multi-year deal with the streaming giant—on Sunday released a statement in which they expressed "concerns" to Spotify over the spread of "COVID misinformation."

Later that day, Rogan published a 10-minute video response to the controversy on his Instagram account. The response appeared after Spotify CEO Daniel Ek pledged to add a content advisory to any podcast episode that discusses COVID-19.

In the video, Rogan defended having Dr. Peter McCullough and Dr. Robert Malone on two episodes of his show, despite the doctors being widely criticized for promoting misinformation around the pandemic.

Malone said in one episode that Americans had been "hypnotized" into wearing masks and getting vaccinated, while McCullough said that the COVID-19 vaccines were experimental. McCullough said that the pandemic was planned in an interview with Rogan broadcast in December 2021.

About 270 U.S. doctors, scientists, health care professionals and professors wrote to Spotify in an open letter accusing the podcaster of "repeatedly spread[ing] misleading and false claims."

Rogan said in his statement: "The problem I have with dangerous misinformation, especially today, is that many of the things we thought of as misinformation just a short while ago are now accepted as fact like, for instance, eight months ago, if you said that if you get vaccinated you can still contract and spread COVID, you would have been removed from social media and banned from certain platforms. Now, that's accepted as fact.

"If you said, 'I don't think cloth masks work,' you would be banned from social media. Now that's openly and repeatedly stated on CNN. If you said, 'I think it's possible that COVID-19 came from a lab, you would have been banned from many social media platforms but, now that's on the front cover of Newsweek."

In his Sunday statement, Rogan called Malone and McCullough "very highly credentialed, highly intelligent, very accomplished people," who had differing opinions to the "mainstream narrative."

"I'm not trying to promote misinformation, I'm not trying to be controversial," he said. "I've never tried to do anything with this podcast other than just talk to people and have interesting conversations."

Rogan said he would "do my best to make sure I've researched these topics" and "try harder to get people with differing opinions" on his show.

Newsweek has contacted Rogan for comment.

Joe Rogan performs at comedy club
Joe Rogan performs at The Ice House Comedy Club on April 17, 2019 in Pasadena, California. The podcaster and streaming platform Spotify have faced heavy criticism over alleged COVID and vaccine misinformation presented on his show. Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images