Simmering tensions over Covid vaccines are boiling over in online communities.
Joe Rogan's fans are responding to criticism of the podcast host's fringe medical stances with fatphobic and antisemitic remarks, which have only intensified after YouTube personality Ethan Klein criticized him for spreading Covid vaccine misinformation.
The dispute between Rogan, who has been embraced by conservative figures for questioning Covid vaccine safety, and Klein, whose fanbase is largely progressive, highlights how growing agitation over the pandemic in online circles is quickly turning into all-out internet warfare.
Known for his contrarian and often unfounded opinions on medicine, Rogan has pushed vaccine hesitancy on his show "The Joe Rogan Experience," which reaches an estimated 11 million listeners per episode. The widely criticized talk show was the most popular podcast on Spotify in 2021.
YouTube took down a recent episode of "The Joe Rogan Experience" on Monday for violating the platform's community guidelines, which forbids misinformation related to elections, Covid-19 and vaccines. The episode is still available on Spotify, which struck a multiyear deal to license the show in 2020.
Rogan's audience is now lashing out online, claiming unfair censorship.
When Klein, who helms multiple podcasts under the YouTube channel H3H3 Productions, criticized Rogan’s fringe medical stances on Tuesday, he was met with intense backlash from Rogan’s fans. His channel, which he shares with his wife Hila Klein, has 6.3 million subscribers on YouTube. Its sister channel H3 Podcast has 3 million subscribers.
He also criticized Rogan for taking multiple medications when he tested positive for Covid, despite bringing anti-vaxxers on his show.
During the episode, which was uploaded on New Year's Eve, Rogan interviewed Dr. Robert Malone, an infectious disease researcher who has ascended in fringe circles for denouncing Covid-19 vaccines.
Malone, who claims to have invented mRNA vaccines that lead to the development of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna jabs, alleged that the vaccines are "toxic" despite robust testing and evidence of the vaccines' safety.
He also compared modern vaccine and mask requirements in the United States to Germany during the Nazi rise to power.
"What the heck happened to Germany in the 20s and 30s? Very intelligent, highly educated population, and they went barking mad," Malone said on the show. "And how did that happen? The answer is mass formation psychosis."
Malone then described how a "society that has become decoupled from each other" is more willing to turn to "leaders" who promise a solution.
"Then they will follow that person," Malone continued. "It doesn't matter whether they lied to them or whatever. The data is irrelevant."
Rogan says that he isn't "an anti-vax person." But he has also suggested that young, healthy people do not need to be vaccinated, and when he tested positive for Covid in September 2021, he announced that he was treating it with a melange of medications, including the veterinary dewormer Ivermectin. The Food and Drug administration strongly advises against self-medicating with animal doses of Ivermectin, as overdosing on the drug can cause abdominal issues, neurological disorders and even death.
Following the release of the episode, other prominent online creators spoke out against Rogan's show.
Hank Green, a creator known for his YouTube and TikTok content about science, tweeted that Rogan's "influence and income grow when his content is more contrarian."
So we need to stop being surprised when his [Rogan] content promotes perspectives and people that are really good at making people believe things that are definitely false."
-Hank Green, creator
"So we need to stop being surprised when his content promotes perspectives and people that are really good at making people believe things that are definitely false," Green continued.
In his Twitter thread, Klein criticized Rogan's hypocritical stances against large pharmaceutical companies, noting that Rogan pushes vaccine hesitancy but was still willing to take monoclonal antibody treatment in addition to Ivermectin when he had Covid.
"Dude has caused so much vaccine hesitancy and misinformation and he doesn't even have the balls to stand by the [expletive] he preaches," Klein continued, noting Rogan's flippant comments toward overweight people with Covid.
In a podcast clip circulating on TikTok and Twitter, Rogan said that people with obesity are "[expletive] no matter what."
"Even if you don't get Covid, you're going to get a heart attack," Rogan said in the clip. "You're not going to make it anyway ... You can't exonerate yourself from decades of being a slob."
Fans of Rogan responded with disparaging comments about Klein's body, stating that Klein could not comment on Rogan's stances on Covid health because he is overweight. Some made antisemitic remarks about Klein, who is Jewish.
Rogan's fans also circulated shirtless photos of Klein juxtaposed with shirtless photos of Rogan, and claimed that the latter had more authority to speak on medical issues because he more visibly muscular.
But as many online pointed out, Klein's thread was about calling out misinformation about the ongoing pandemic, not about claiming to be more fit than Rogan.
Klein, who has been open online about his body image and mental health, took the comparisons in stride. He posted an image edited to show Rogan in a matching outfit to his own.
Rogan did not publicly respond to Klein's Twitter thread.