In recent weeks, the spotlight on Joe Rogan, host of the popular Joe Rogan Experience podcast on Spotify, has only grown brighter and hotter. After receiving a storm of criticism for promoting COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on his podcast, all eyes are now on Rogan again after videos of him repeatedly using the n-word over the years and comparing a Black neighbourhood he was in to Planet of the Apes surfaced online.
On Saturday, Rogan offered his “sincere and humble apologies” for his use of the n-word on Instagram and said that the video mashup making the rounds online was taken out of context. Even so, he added, “it looks fucking horrible, even to me.” The video was one of two shared earlier this week by Black musician India.Arie, one of the latest artists to leave Spotify in protest over Rogan following the departure of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and others.
“I know that to most people there’s no context where a white person is ever allowed to say that word, never mind publicly on a podcast, and I agree with that now,” Rogan said in his nearly six-minute Instagram post. “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.”
The podcast host went on to provide a long list of examples of when he had used the n-word. For instance, in one of the clips included in the video mashup shared by India.Arie, Rogan explained that he and his guests were talking about how Black comedian and actor Redd Foxx would use it on TV. Another time, he said he was referencing how Richard Pryor, also a Black comedian and actor, used the n-word as the title of one of his albums.
One of the most bizarre explanations Rogan gave for using the n-word in the past was when he said he was analysing it because it was a “very unusual word.”
“[T]here’s not another word like it in the entire English language, because it’s a word where only one group of people is allowed to use it, and they can use in so many different ways,” Rogan said. “Like if a white person says that word it’s racist and toxic, but a Black person can use it and it can be a punch line, it can be a term of endearment, it can be lyrics to a rap song, it can be a positive affirmation. It’s a very unusual word, but it’s not my word to use, I’m well aware of that now.”
In the other video, Rogan is shown telling a story on his podcast about going to see Planet of the Apes in Philadelphia with two friends. According to the podcast host, they were dropped off by a cab in an all-Black neighbourhood. In order to try “to make the story entertaining,” Rogan said the following:
“We got out, and it was like we were in Africa, like we were in Planet of the Apes.”
Rogan explained on Saturday that he later deleted the podcast episode and that it was an idiotic thing to say. He wasn’t trying to be racist, he maintained, he was just trying to be entertaining.
India.Arie, the artist who posted the videos, said Rogan shouldn’t be using the n-word at all. While some artists have left Spotify because of Rogan’s promotion of COVID-19 misinformation, she explained that she was leaving for a variety of reasons, including the podcast host’s language when referring to Black people.
“He shouldn’t even be uttering the word. Don’t even say it under any context. Don’t say it. That’s where I stand. It’s my right to stand there. I have always stood there,” India.Arie said on Instagram.
In addition, the musician pointed to the streaming platform’s low royalty payment rates for artists, specifically musicians and podcasters of colour, as a reason for her departure. She also said she didn’t want money generated by her music to be used to invest in Rogan, which Spotify reportedly paid more than $US100 ($139) million for exclusive rights to his podcast.
The streaming platform has faced intense scrutiny over its misinformation policies and its support of Rogan in recent weeks. The controversy has motivated a wave of people to cancel their Spotify subscriptions, although it’s difficult to say how many. On Friday, Spotify quietly removed 70 episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience from its platform but has not publicly explained why.
Gizmodo reached out to Spotify on Saturday to ask for comment on Rogan’s apology but did not hear back by the time of publication. We’ll make sure to update this article if somebody gets back to us.
“It took a Neil Young to open the door for someone like me, but I walked through it because I’ve been standing at this door for a long time,” India.Arie said. “What if we all leave [Spotify]? Then we can start having a conversation. We can go from a conversation to a negotiation.”
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