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The statement is likely to add pressure to the audio streaming service, which has come under fire in recent weeks to remove Rogan’s podcast over misinformation spread by the TV presenter about COVID-19 and the vaccines against the disease.
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has signalled that the company will not part ways with Joe Rogan over the N-word controversy, The Hollywood Reporter writes, citing a letter written to Spotify’s employees.
“There are no words I can say to adequately convey how deeply sorry I am for the way The Joe Rogan Experience controversy continues to impact each of you. I think it’s important you’re aware that we’ve had conversations with Joe and his team about some of the content in his show, including his history of using some racially insensitive language”, Daniel Ek wrote.
While the Spotify CEO said he “strongly condemns” Rogan’s remarks he doesn’t believe that “silencing” the popular TV presenter is the answer.
“We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but cancelling voices is a slippery slope. Looking at the issue more broadly, it’s critical thinking and open debate that powers real and necessary progress”, Daniel Ek wrote.
Backlash Over Remarks on COVID-19 and Use of The N-Word
“The Joe Rogan Experience” is one of the platform’s most popular podcasts, averaging over 10 million listeners per episode. The comedian and TV presenter has been criticised by doctors, scientists, and medical professionals for spreading misinformation on the novel coronavirus and vaccines – be it making the remarks himself or inviting guests that make the statements.
The allegations made by Joe Rogan include:
young and healthy people don’t need vaccines;
there’s a greater risk for young people to develop myocarditis from a COVID-19 inoculation than from the disease;
MRNA vaccines, such as Moderna and Pfizer, are not inoculations, but a gene therapy;
ivermectin, a drug used to treat parasites in animals can cure COVID-19;
guest Dr Robert Malone claimed that people are at greater risk of harmful side effects from COVID-19 jabs if they get vaccinated after having the disease. Malone also voiced opposition to the vaccination of children and compared the climate in the US to Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, when the Nazis rose to power.
The criticism of Rogan started back in 2020, but it reached a boiling point when Canadian singer and Grammy winner Neil Young issued an ultimatum to Spotify, telling the streaming service to choose between him and Rogan, whom he accused of “spreading fake information about vaccines – potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them”. Since then other artists have called on the platform to remove Rogan’s podcasts.
Rogan has publicly apologised and pledged to “balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people’s perspectives so [they] can maybe find a better point of view”. For its part, Spotify introduced policy changes, under which a content advisory is added to any podcast containing a discussion about COVID-19.
Last week, Grammy-winning artist India Arie posted a video compilation, which shows Rogan using the N-word 22 times. The development resulted in widespread condemnation and more calls to remove his podcast.
Rogan has offered “sincere and humble apologies”, but stressed that the clips were take out of context, adding that he often used the slur quoting comedians or while discussing the use of the N-words in movies. Rogan also removed the episodes featuring racial slurs from Spotify.
“Now, I haven’t said it in years, but for a long time, when I would bring that word up, like if it would come up in conversation, instead of saying ‘the N-word’, I would just say the word. I thought as long as it was in context, people would understand what I was doing. I do hope that this can be a teachable moment for anybody that doesn’t know how offensive that word can be coming out of a white person’s mouth”, Rogan said.