Until 2016 Alex Jones was a fringe player, hosting a talk show with a core fandom devoted to conspiracy theories and political grievances. Thanks to his friendliness to the current US president, Jones seemed to become a little more mainstream.
But not that mainstream. And a much more successful and perhaps slightly more conventional host, Joe Rogan, just found out the hard way about how many feel regarding his having Jones on as a show guest. They didn't like it, and some even want Rogan's $100 million-plus deal with Spotify yanked for giving Jones such a massive platform.
For his part, Rogan clearly expected to get big-time blowback, and his expectations were fulfilled. One sticking point: Jones is anti-vaccine and aggressive about it. About everything actually, but anyway—and while Rogan is not against them, he's willing to discuss the point with Jones, who cited no less than Bill Gates regarding their effectiveness. According to Rogan, Jones cited Gates correctly.
Here's what Joe Rogan wrote in the caption of an Instagram post he published of Gates making the statement Jones cited:
The Alex Jones podcast
I knew people were going to criticize the content of the podcast without even listening and I was right. That’s why I fact checked every single crazy thing he said, and all of them were verified. People have said he spread “anti-covid vaccine conspiracy theories” because he said that 80% of the people who were given one of the vaccines got sick. Here’s the video of Bill Gates admitting it himself.
Now, I’m NOT anti vaccine, and if a safe and effective covid vaccine is created I’ll take it and encourage others to take it, but I wanted to put this video up to validate what he said.
He said a lot of crazy, but accurate things, and that’s what I’ve been saying about him for years. He’s most certainly fucked up in the past, but this episode and the subjects he exposed highlight why I chose to have him on.
Criticism of Rogan's choice to have Jones on at all was directed at Spotify as well, according to this BuzzFeed report. Spotify was ready with talking points ahead of time:
“Spotify has always been a place for creative expressions,” the top bullet point said. “It’s important to have diverse voices and points of view on our platform.”
“We are not going to ban specific individuals from being guests on other people’s shows, as the episode/show complies with our content policies,” the talking points said.
Spotify addressed its own employees' concerns—some have been objecting to Rogan's presence in general—in an internal memo that said if "a team member has concerns about any piece of content on our platform, you should encourage them to report it to Trust & Safety because they are the experts on our team charged with reviewing content."
Oddly, the show was actually briefly removed from streaming on Wednesday, but had been re-posted by Thursday morning.
Spotify kicked Jones's show off the platform because it contained "hate content," but apparently that's not the same as him guesting on someone else's broadcast.
While some might criticize Rogan for giving Jones any space at all, the UFC commentator and standup comedian did push back on Jones's statements more than once on the Oct. 27th recording.
Jones expressed climate change denial, went off about censorship and repeated false rumors about the family of Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden. He touted conspiracy theories, as usual, this time about the novel coronavirus pandemic among other things. Rogan made efforts to push back but it came across as muted.
One reason so many find Jones repulsive: He has pushed conspiracy theories regarding the horrific 2014 Sandy Hook school shooting for years. He was even sued for defamation over his claims, which included calling the mass shooting "synthetic, completely fake, with actors, in my view, manufactured."
Rogan did call him out on that, saying, "We all know that you’ve fucked some things up, right? Your biggest fuckup is Sandy Hook." But he followed up with, "you’ve gotten so many things right. This is why I keep talking to you about these things, and that’s why I defend you and why I think it’s fucking dangerous to censor you."
And Jones, perhaps to his credit, didn't try to act like he was perfect, as he drank whiskey throughout the interview and even admitted to a problem with alcohol. Rogan found himself encouraging Jones to take time off and get clean.
The Joe Rogan Experience was downloaded nearly 200 million times in 2019. He could lose half that audience and still likely call it some kind of success. While Newsweek reports that people are canceling memberships to protest Rogan and Jones, it's hard for Spotify to deny Rogan's drawing power.