Joe Rogan pledges to ‘try harder’ amid Spotify protests over COVID-19 misinformation

FILE - Comedian Joe Rogan performs during his appearance at The Ice House Comedy Club on April 17, 2019, in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images)

Joe Rogan pledged to "try harder" to offer more balanced views on his Spotify-exclusive podcast following protests of the music streaming platform kicked off by Neil Young over the spread of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.

"Do I get things wrong? Absolutely, but I try to correct them," Rogan said Sunday of his hugely popular podcast, "The Joe Rogan Experience." "I’m interested in telling the truth, and I’m interested in finding out what that truth is."

His podcast, which has been criticized for spreading virus misinformation, has faced mounting backlash for recent episodes featuring guests like Dr. Robert Malone, an infectious disease specialist who has become a hero in the anti-vaccine community. Malone has been banned from Twitter for spreading COVID misinformation and has falsely suggested that millions of people have been hypnotized into believing that vaccines work to prevent serious disease.

In a nearly 10-minute video shared to Instagram, Rogan addressed the controversy over his show and said he was only seeking to have conversations with people who have "differing opinions."

"I'm not trying to promote misinformation, I'm not trying to be controversial," the comedian and UFC commentator said. "I've never tried to do anything with this podcast other than to just talk to people."

Rogan said many "have a distorted perception of what I do, maybe based on soundbites or headlines or articles that are disparaging." He defended the credentials of Malone and another guest on his podcast, cardiologist Dr. Peter McCullough.

"I’m not interested in only talking to people who have only one perspective," noting how he earlier sat down on the show with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the chief medical correspondent for CNN, Dr. Michael Osterholm, who is a member of President Joe Biden's COVID-19 advisory board, and Dr. Peter Hotez from Baylor College of Medicine.

Rogan also pledged to "try harder to get people with differing opinions" on the show and "do my best to make sure that I’ve researched these topics — the controversial ones in particular."

Spotify said Sunday in a statement that it would add a content advisory to any podcast episode on the platform that includes a discussion about COVID-19. The advisory will guide listeners to a COVID-19 information hub with "easy access to data-driven facts, up-to-date information as shared by scientists, physicians, academics and public health authorities around the world."

Rogan said he was "very happy" with the addition of the advisories on COVID-19. He also said that he schedules the guests on his podcast himself and that he would try to book doctors with different opinions right after he talks to "the controversial ones." 

Rogan is one of Spotify’s biggest stars, with a contract that could earn him more than $100 million. Last week, Young said he had asked his management and record company to remove his music from the popular streaming service in protest, where he had more than six million monthly listeners, according to his Spotify home page.

The veteran rock star said that many of Spotify’s listeners are hearing misleading information about COVID. They’re young, "impressionable and easy to swing to the wrong side of the truth," he said.

"These young people believe Spotify would never present grossly unfactual information," he said. "They unfortunately are wrong. I knew I had to try to point that out."

Joni Mitchell and Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren later joined Young in the Spotify boycott.

"Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives," Mitchell said Friday in a message posted on her website. "I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue."

This story was reported from Cincinnati.