Doctors, Scientists and Educators Publish Open Letter Condemning Joe Rogan’s “Devastating” Impact on Public Health

Medical professionals are sick of Spotify allowing the podcaster to spread misinformation unchecked

A profile shot of podcaster Joe Rogan. Doctors, scientists and educators condemned Rogan in open letter published in December 2021.
Joe Rogan has a listenership around 11 million, most of them men under the age of 30.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty

They’ve heard enough.

A total of 270 “scientists, medical professionals, professors, and science communicators” published an open letter to Spotify, denouncing the platform’s tacit support of dangerous anti-vaccine opinions that Joe Rogan and his guests have disseminated on his podcast The Joe Rogan Experience.

The coalition, which is comprised of experts in microbiology, immunology, epidemiology and neuroscience, is “calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform” by “[establishing] a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation.”

The most recent of these “mass-misinformation events” occurred on December 31, in podcast episode #1757, when Rogan hosted Dr. Robert Malone for a free-wheeling, three-hour conversation, much of it focused on the supposed inefficacy of the vaccine and the injustice of vaccine mandates.

While Dr. Malone does have a background in immunology, and contributed to groundbreaking mRNA research in the early 1990s, he’s used that experience to market himself as smarter than the near-unanimous front of experts who’ve developed and administered the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Malone is either firmly against the vaccine, or firmly for the right-wing stardom he’s amassed over the last year and a half. Either way, it doesn’t really matter. He’s a grifter who’s highly skilled at telling people what they want to hear. Early last year, he compared America’s pandemic policies to Nazi Germany. On Rogan’s podcast, he claimed that “mass formation psychosis” is why people believe in vaccines, as noted by Rolling Stone. He also alleged that hospitals have “a financial incentive to falsely diagnose COVID-19 deaths.”

While Dr. Malone has been banned from Twitter for promoting this sort of misinformation, and some of his false claims have been censored on YouTube, an appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience guarantees him access to an incredibly large audience — and an especially impressionable audience at that. The show reaches an estimated 11 million people per episode and the average age of that listenership is 24. As roughly 40.5% of Americans aged 18-24 and 36.3% aged 25-39 have yet to be fully vaccinated, according to Mayo Clinic, Rogan and Dr. Malone are getting the wrong message to the wrong people.

It’s easy to see why doctors are so upset. Rolling Stone, which initially broke this story, profiled an infectious disease epidemiologist named Jessica Malaty Rivera. She shared her concerns that friends and family she considered “quite wise and discerning” seemed to be falling prey to the seductive and bombastic claims spread by people like Dr. Malone. She helped spearhead the open letter, along with fellow colleagues at Boston’s Children’s Hospital.

Now, they can only wait and hope Spotify responds. At the moment, that seems unlikely. Spotify has proven reluctant to put any sort of muzzle on Rogan — who, in addition to hosting guests who spread misinformation, frequently spews pseudoscience of his own — and it would be a real shock if they began moderating him and putting warning labels on his episodes.

Spotify spent $100 million on Rogan. Don’t expect them to turn their backs on that now. They know who they got into bed with. Rogan will talk to anyone. He doesn’t give a shit. He likes to egg people on, to coax out their craziest takes. He usually gets them.

Thank you to the doctors who wrote this open letter, and thank you for all the unforgiving work you do. But we know how this story ends. The Dr. Malone episode will get even more listens this weekend, and in a month or two, he’ll be re-invited to the pod, ready for the next mass-misinformation event.

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