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Joe Rogan: COVID-19 misinfo, right-wing myths, & anti-trans rhetoric

“Called out for peddling dangerous rhetoric, he shields himself claiming he should not be considered a ‘respected source of information”

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Joe Rogan 'Wrapped on Spotify' graphic vis Media Matters for America

By Alex Paterson | WASHINGTON – Throughout his first full year streaming exclusively on Spotify, host Joe Rogan has repeatedly used his podcast to broadcast conspiracy theories, COVID-19 misinformation, and anti-trans rhetoric to millions of listeners across the globe. One year into his contract, it’s clear that Spotify’s $100 million paycheck to Rogan is funding increasingly dangerous and bigoted content.

Media Matters monitored over 350 hours of The Joe Rogan Experience over the past year and found that the show is grounded in misinformation and bigotry. To coincide with Spotify’s 2021 Wrapped — an annual summary of the trends on the streaming platform — we compiled some of the worst examples of Rogan’s sexist, racist, and harmful commentary over the past year — all paid for by Spotify.

Rogan is a veritable megaphone of right-wing lies, and when he is called out for peddling dangerous rhetoric, he shields himself from any accountability by claiming he should not be considered a “respected source of information.” He has also repeatedly praised Spotify for being a safe space for him as the platform has refused to do anything to quell the misinformation and hate on his show; Rogan once told a guest that anti-trans attacks are acceptable on his show, saying, “You can say whatever you want. We’re on Spotify.”

The Joe Rogan Experience is broadcast exclusively on Spotify and was the most popular podcast on the platform in 2021 and 2020. As The Washington Post noted in May, “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, Rogan reaches nearly four times as many people as prime-time cable hosts such as Sean Hannity of Fox News Channel and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.” 

COVID-19 misinformation

  • On April 23, Rogan encouraged “healthy” young people not to get a COVID-19 vaccine, saying, “If you’re like 21 years old, and you say to me, should I get vaccinated? I’ll go no.” According to The Verge, Spotify reviewed these comments but did not find them in violation of any policies, thus leaving the episode live. Public health experts and White House officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci condemned Rogan’s comments.
  • On April 28, Rogan falsely claimed that any lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 “makes things worse,” saying, “It’s worse. It makes things worse, you know why — because people go inside. They are trapped inside and that’s where it spreads.”
  • On May 14, he falsely claimed that far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was “right” about “actual microchips being injected into your arm to see if you have COVID-19.” 
  • On June 22, Rogan dedicated an entire episode of his podcast to promoting ivermectin as a prophylactic and therapeutic for COVID-19, even though it’s an unproven and potentially dangerous treatment for the disease. During the podcast, guest Bret Weinstein claimed that a study showed “ivermectin alone, if properly utilized, is capable of driving this pathogen to extinction,” and Rogan made unsubstantiated claims about its use for prevention of COVID-19, saying, “All it means is to take the drug to anticipate that you may get it, so if you’re in a high-risk area you take it and it’ll protect you from infection.”
  • On July 20, Rogan promoted the right-wing lie that the government was planning to monitor private citizens’ text messages for anti-vaccine misinformation, saying, “Have you seen the new thing about SMS text messages to stop COVID vaccine misinformation? … Saagar [Enjeti] from Breaking Points sent me this. We were talking about this recently. They are monitoring SMS texts for dangerous misinformation about COVID vaccines.”
  • On August 6, Rogan fearmongered that vaccine passports would move the U.S. “one step closer to dictatorship” and lied that getting the coronavirus vaccine is not effective in preventing the disease, saying, “All you hear is take this vaccine that doesn’t even prevent you from getting the disease, or you can’t go to the sauna or wherever the fuck you want to go. … If it was a vaccine — it’s more of a treatment than it is a vaccine, really, if you look at it.”
  • On August 12, Rogan promoted the baseless right-wing narrative fearmongering that immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border were causing a surge in COVID-19 cases, saying, “They are letting in — so Greg Abbott, the governor, the great governor of the state of Texas, was correct — they are letting in thousands and thousands of people who are positive with COVID.”
  • On August 20, he falsely asserted that mRNA coronavirus vaccines are “really gene therapy” and lied that it is “not logical, it’s not rational, and it’s not supported by science” to advise people with natural immunity to get a coronavirus vaccine. Notably, Rogan has made the same false claim that mRNA vaccines are a form of “gene therapy” on August 18September 21November 8, and November 10.
  • On September 23, Rogan fearmongered that vaccine passports will lead to a “social credit system similar to what they have in China.”
  • On September 30, Rogan baselessly suggested that President Joe Biden did not actually receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, falsely claiming that it would be unsafe and potentially deadly to do so on live TV. 
  • On November 10, he repeatedly spread the baseless claim that the Biden administration is trying to stop people from receiving monoclonal antibodies, a COVID-19 treatment, “because it discourages people from getting vaccinated.” Rogan repeated this claim on the November 26 edition of his show, asserting that the treatment is being withheld because “they don’t want there to be a very clear path where you don’t have to be vaccinated but if you get sick you’re going to be fine.” 
  • On November 22, Rogan falsely asserted that children do not need to get a COVID-19 vaccine, saying, “They’re trying to say that children need it when they don’t. They don’t need it.” 
  • Later in that episode, Rogan baselessly claimed that use of ivermectin “essentially cured COVID” in Uttar Pradesh, India. 

Anti-trans rhetoric

  • On June 25, Rogan lied that “there’s not a lot of overwhelming, overt discrimination against people who are trans, like, publicly other than the sports thing” and prisons.
  • On July 3, Rogan mocked and misgendered a young person who came out as trans to his friends. He also said that “it’s fashionable” to be nonbinary, later claiming, “It’s going to get worse.” He also asserted, “I think people are going to be transracial. I think in the next few years transracialism is going to be, like, fully embraced. And then we’re going to have Black folks on our side, because they’re going to go hey, … this is crazy. All this stuff about trans women competing in the Olympics, that wasn’t as bothersome.”
  • On August 12, Rogan agreed with his guest Andrew Schulz’s comments when Schulz used an anti-trans slur and compared trans people to QAnon conspiracy theorists, asserting, “QAnon is just like conservative t—–s. That’s really all they are.” Rogan also claimed that being nonbinary is “very, very self-indulgent,” and said that trans people are “not experiencing real adversity or, you know, real discrimination, so you create discrimination against yourself.”
  • On August 20, Rogan asserted that “men transitioning to women use male tactics and male behavior as they invade feminist spaces,” “tend to be more assertive,” and “dominate whenever possible if left unchecked.” He also said that trans women “use male tactics and male behavior as they invade feminist spaces” and “dominate them like men do.” 
  • Later in that episode, Rogan derided an unnamed trans woman, saying she had a “terrorist beard” and that “there’s no way you’re a woman.” Rogan continued, “There are definitely people with legitimate gender dysphoria that want to be a woman, and they’re biologically male. And then there’s grifters. There’s crazy people. There’s people who have locked on to this movement.”
  • On November 3, Rogan used an anti-trans slur, lamenting, “You can’t say t—-y,” before his guest repeatedly used the slur. He also mocked the idea of a comedian using they/them pronouns, saying, “Imagine if there is a comic who gave into that.”

Right-wing misinformation and bigotry

  • On January 30, Rogan commented on actor Angelina Jolie’s genitals, saying, “Crazy pussy is the best pussy. … She’s clearly crazy.” He also demeaned Jolie for developing Bell’s palsy, saying, “That’s the problem with crazy is crazy comes with all sorts of neurotic shit.”
  • On May 13, Rogan lamented the so-called effects of “woke culture,” saying, “It keeps going further and further down the line and if you get to the point where you capitulate, where you agree to all these demands, it’ll eventually get to straight white men are not allowed to talk, because it’s your privilege to express yourself when other people of color have been silenced throughout history.” 
  • On July 3, Rogan imitated people who speak Mandarin and questioned, “Is that racist to do that, to imitate a sound?” He also imitated an Asian accent on the November 3 edition of his show.
  • On July 29, Rogan claimed that journalist Lauren Sanchez is an “alpha predator female” and agreed with his guest’s claim that her “puss puss is probably incredible because girls like that, you got to respect they know that that’s their job.”
  • On August 8, Rogan used an anti-Chinese slur, complaining, “You can’t say Chinaman.”
  • On October 6, Rogan called people who had criticized his guest on TikTok “retarded.” After his guest replied “you can’t say that,” Rogan said, “But I’m on Spotify. You can get away with it.” He also said the word on November 26 edition of his show and claimed that the word means “you’ve been held back in learning because you’ve applied the wrong kind of thinking to things. It does not mean someone with Down syndrome, and this idea that those two are … the same thing and it’s a slur or it’s a terrible thing to say, that’s not true. It’s not right.”
  • On November 3, Rogan pushed the right-wing lie that Dr. Anthony Fauci and the National Institute of Health funded “experiments on these beagle puppies and they put their heads in cages and filled the cages with sand flies where the sand flies were literally eating the beagles alive.”
  • On November 26, Rogan claimed that the Democratic establishment will “kill people on purpose that are causing problems” and said, “You have this organization that’s based on this sort of cronyism and [House Majority Leader] Nancy Pelosi is the head witch.”
  • In that same episode, Rogan spread the right-wing lie that Biden called Kyle Rittenhouse — the teenager who killed two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year and was later aquitted — a “white supremacist.”

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Alex Paterson is a researcher for the LGBTQ program at Media Matters, where he has worked since 2019. Alex holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Montana State University and has a background in LGBTQ advocacy, including previous work at the National LGBTQ Task Force and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

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New study on resilience & mental health among LGBTQ youth

LGBTQ youth with high resilience had 59% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt- 69% lower odds of considering suicide in the past year

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

NEW YORK – The Trevor Project observing the 53rd anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn that sparked a greater movement for LGBTQ+ rights and equality this week, released new data that examines resilience and mental health among LGBTQ youth.

“As we celebrate Pride Month and commemorate the Stonewall Riots, there is often discussion of the ‘resilience’ of the LGBTQ community and the ways in which members are able to bounce back in the face of adversity. These data highlight the fact that resilience is not just an admirable quality – but one that can be associated with improved mental health among LGBTQ youth,” said Dr. Jonah DeChants, Research Scientist at The Trevor Project.

“Higher resilience in our sample was consistently associated with better mental health outcomes including decreased risk for anxiety, depression, and suicide attempts in the past year among LGBTQ youth. Moving forward, we should invest further research into understanding how LGBTQ youth can successfully develop high resilience. Additionally, we should work to dismantle systems of oppression and implement LGBTQ-inclusive anti-discrimination protections  so that LGBTQ youth are not required to possess resilience to excel and thrive.” 

Key Findings:

  • LGBTQ youth with high resilience had 59% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt, and 69% lower odds of considering suicide in the past year, compared to LGBTQ youth with low resilience. 
  • LGBTQ youth with high resilience reported 81% lower odds  of anxiety symptoms, compared to LGBTQ youth with low resilience. 
  • LGBTQ youth with  high resilience reported 79% lower odds of recent depression, compared to LGBTQ youth with low resilience. 
  • LGBTQ youth who have supportive families and  are in supportive environments have higher resilience.
  • LGBTQ youth ages 18 to 24 reported significantly higher resilience than LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 17. 

Read the report:

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Research/Study

150 people on Tennessee’s sex offender registry for HIV-related conviction

Nearly one-half of HIV registrants on the SOR were women and over three-quarters of HIV registrants were Black

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

LOS ANGELES – At least 154 people have been placed on Tennessee’s sex offender registry (SOR) for an HIV-related conviction since 1993, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

Enforcement of HIV crimes in Tennessee disproportionately affects women and Black people. Nearly one-half of HIV registrants on the SOR were women and over three-quarters of HIV registrants were Black.

Tennessee’s two primary HIV criminalization laws—aggravated prostitution and criminal exposure—make it a felony for people living with HIV to engage in sex work or other activities, such as intimate contact, blood donation, or needle exchange, without disclosing their status. Both are considered a “violent sexual offense” and require a person convicted to register as a sex offender for life.

Examining Tennessee’s sex offender registry, researchers found that Shelby County, home to Memphis, accounts for most of the state’s HIV convictions. Shelby County makes up only 13% of Tennessee’s population and 37% of the population of people living with HIV in the state, but 64% of HIV registrants on the SOR. Moreover, while Black Tennesseans were only 17% of the state’s population and 56% of people living with HIV in the state, 75% of all HIV registrants were Black.

In Shelby County, 91% of aggravated prostitution convictions resulted from police sting operations in which no physical contact ever occurred. In addition, the case files showed that 75% of those convicted were Black women. When it came to criminal exposure case files, all of those convicted except one person were Black men.

“Tennessee’s HIV criminal laws were enacted at a time when little was known about HIV and before modern medical advances were available to treat and prevent HIV,” said lead author Nathan Cisneros, HIV Criminalization Analyst at the Williams Institute. “Tennessee’s outdated laws do not require actual transmission or the intent to transmit HIV. Moreover, the laws ignore whether the person living with HIV is in treatment and virally suppressed and therefore cannot transmit HIV.”

KEY FINDINGS

  • Incarcerating people for HIV-related offenses has cost Tennessee at least $3.8 million.
  • Of the 154 people who have been placed on Tennessee’s SOR for an HIV-related conviction, 51% were convicted of aggravated prostitution, 46% were convicted of criminal exposure, and 3% were convicted of both.
  • Women account for 26% of people living with HIV in Tennessee and 4% of people on the SOR, but 46% of the SOR’s HIV registrants.
  • Black people account for 17% of people living in Tennessee, 56% of those living with HIV, 27% of people on the SOR, but 75% of the SOR’s HIV registrants.
  • Black women were the majority of aggravated prostitution registrants (57%), while Black men were the majority of criminal exposure registrants (64%).
  • People with an HIV-related offense are more economically vulnerable when compared to others on the state’s SOR.
    • One in five (19%) HIV registrants were homeless compared to 9% of all SOR registrants.
    • 28% of HIV registrants reported an employer address compared to about half (49%) of all SOR registrants.
  • Shelby County has one aggravated prostitution conviction for every 115 people living with HIV in the county, and Black people were 90% of all people convicted for aggravated prostitution.
    • Over 90% of aggravated prostitution convictions in Shelby County were the result of police sting operations.
    • Only 3% of aggravated prostitution convictions in Shelby County alleged any intimate contact.
    • Nearly all (95%) people arrested in Shelby County for criminal exposure were Black men, compared to 64% of people statewide.  

The Williams Institute has conducted research on HIV criminalization in numerous U.S. states.

Read the report

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Research/Study

New Pew Research Center poll: Americans at odds over Trans issues 

Strong majorities favor non-discrimination protections but weaker support for access to transition-related care among minors

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Texas trans activist Landon Richie speaking at Texas Capitol against trans youth sports bill (Los Angeles Blade file photo)

WASHINGTON – A new survey from a leading non-partisan research center reveals Americans have mixed views on transgender issues at a time when states are moving forward with measures against transgender youth, with strong majorities favoring non-discrimination protections but weaker support for access to transition-related care among minors and participation in school sports.

The Pew Research Center issued the findings on Tuesday as part of the results of its ongoing study to better understand Americans’ views about gender identity and people who are transgender or non-binary. The findings are based on a survey of 10,188 U.S. adults from data collected as part of a larger survey conducted May 16-22.

A majority of respondents by wide margins favor non-discrimination protections for transgender people. A full 64 percent back laws or policies that would protect transgender people from discrimination in jobs, housing, and public spaces, while roughly 8-in-10 acknowledge transgender people face at least some discrimination in our society.

Additionally, nearly one half of Americans say it’s extremely important to use a transgender person’s new name after they undergo a transition, while an additional 22 percent say that is somewhat important. A smaller percentage, 34 percent, say using a transgender person’s pronouns is extremely important, and 21 percent say it is somewhat important.

But other findings were less supportive:

  • 60 percent say a person’s gender is determined by sex assigned at birth, reflecting an increase from 56 percent in 2021 and 54 percent in 2017, compared to 38 percent who say gender can be different from sex assigned at birth.
  • 54 percent say society has either gone too far or been about right in terms of acceptance, underscoring an ambivalence around transgender issues even among those who see at least some discrimination against transgender people.
  • About six-in-ten adults, or 58 precent, favor proposals that would require transgender athletes to compete on teams that match the sex they were assigned at birth as opposed to teams consistent with their gender identity, compared to 17 percent who oppose that and 24 percent neither favor nor oppose it.
  • 46 percent favor making it illegal for health care professionals to provide transition-related care, such as hormones or gender reassignment surgery, to someone younger than 18, compared to 31 percent who oppose it.
  • Americans are more evenly split when it comes to making it illegal for public school districts to teach about gender identity in elementary schools (which is favored by 41 percent, and opposed by 38 percent) and investigating parents for child abuse if they help someone younger than 18 obtain transition-related care (37 percent are in favor and 36 percent oppose it).

Young adults took the lead in terms of supporting change and acceptance. Half of adults ages 18 to 29 say someone can be a man or a woman even if that differs from the sex they were assigned at birth, compared to about four-in-10 of those ages 30 to 49 and about one-third of respondents 50 and older.

Predictably, stark differences could be found along party lines. Democrats by 59 precent say society hasn’t gone far enough in accepting people who are transgender, while 15 percent say it has gone too far and 24 percent say it’s been about right. For Republicans, 10 percent say society hasn’t gone far enough, while 66 percent say it’s gone too far and 22 percent say it’s been about right.

Read the full report here.

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