- Podcast host Joe Rogan invited Alex Jones, America's most prominent conspiracy theorist, on his show this week.
- Rogan defended hosting Jones by saying he's "gotten so many things right" — even as he's made false inflammatory claims like saying the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax — and has been backed by Spotify's CEO.
- While Rogan occasionally pushed back on some of Jones's outlandish statements, Jones still made false claims at least 10 times throughout the episode that went unchallenged.
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On Tuesday, Joe Rogan interviewed Alex Jones on his show.
The very existence of the episode was immediately controversial. Rogan is the host of "The Joe Rogan Experience," the most popular podcast in the US. Jones runs Infowars and is the most prominent conspiracy theorist in America.
Critics say that Rogan should never have given Jones such a major platform. Jones has promulgated conspiracy theories about the US government orchestrating 9/11, the Sandy Hook shooting being a hoax, and that chemicals put into the water supply turn frogs gay. Spotify, which hosts Rogan's podcast, had kicked Jones off two years ago for repeatedly violating content policies.
After the episode was published, Spotify CEO Daniel Elk defended Rogan, saying the company's policies did not apply to guests.
Rogan and Jones have known each other for a long time. On the show, Jones said he met Rogan in 1998, in a period where Rogan was an actor, comedian, and UFC commentator. And Rogan, himself known for some controversial statements, hosted Jones on his show before, in 2017. Rogan defended hosting Jones by saying that he had gotten things right over the years — like the existence of Bohemian Grove, a semi-secret club where powerful politicians let loose and partake in Satanic-seeming rituals, which has also been covered by legitimate journalists Rogan is welcome to interview.
"We all know that you f— some things up, and your biggest fuck up a Sandy Hook," Rogan said, referring to Jones's now-renounced claim that the massacre of schoolchildren was a hoax. "But you've gotten so many things right. And this is why I keep talking to you about these things and why I defend you."
The sponsors Rogan touted in the episode — Squarespace, the financial services app Cash, the fitness tracker device Whoop, and the bidet company Tushy (it guarantees on its website "100% booty bliss") — did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment on this story.
Rogan fact-checked Jones on some occasions but drank the Kool-Aid on others
During the show, Rogan challenged Jones on several points. He grilled him on several bizarre ideas Jones held on climate change, on the baseless claim that Democratic politicians created lockdowns to damage President Donald Trump electorally, and on an obscure Rockefeller Foundation document from 2010.
"It's Operation Lockstep," Jones said of the Rockefeller foundation document. "And it says a global police state will be brought in from a pandemic and there'll be worldwide martial law. It actually says it in the document."
(It doesn't actually say that.)
On other occasions, Rogan fact-checked Jones and found out he was right, like when Jones claimed that Jared Kushner's dad set up his brother with a prostitute in a sting operation. Turns out that one is true.
But he also let his conspiracy theories wash right past him. At times, he even appeared to agree with some of the nonsense Jones pushed.
Here's a list of occasions where Jones's outlandish claims went right past him
In listening to the three-hour-plus interview — which, even if we accept that an Alex Jones interview is a legitimate enterprise, did not need to be nearly as long — it's clear that Rogan and his team allowed Jones to spread misinformation.
It's hard to fact-check Jones. He often claims to be citing an authority, like Bill Gates, Buzz Aldrin, or a report published by the Rockefeller Foundation. On all of those occasions, Jones either distorted or outright lied about what those legitimate authorities said.
He also often weaves his claims into conspiracist frameworks. It took more than an hour for Jones to get to what he said was "the reason I came on here," which was to warn against the perils of transhumanism, which he describes as "these corporations are saying they're going to take us out of our bodies and make us silicon."
Here are 10 major claims from Jones that Rogan didn't challenge. Spotify didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment for this story.
- Jones said that Sacha Baron Cohen, in his speech at an Anti-Defamation League event last year, "called for my arrest, and for Mark Zuckerberg's arrest, for free speech." Cohen did no such thing. You can watch the video and read the transcript of Cohen's comments here.
- Jones said a diary by Joe Biden's daughter verifies much of the New York Post's coverage of alleged Hunter Biden emails. Rogan didn't respond to the claim.
Jones appears to be referring to a series of stories on the far-right website NationalFile.com, which says it has obtained a diary belonging to Ashley Biden that makes outlandish claims about the Democratic presidential candidate and — in what is surely a spectacular coincidence — appeared just days before the election. Insider has not independently verified the legitimacy of the diary, and neither has any other media outlet.
- According to Jones, "Trump doesn't have Russia connections" and has expelled lobbyists from his administration, a point he repeatedly brought up that went unchallenged by Rogan.
In fact, Trump had welcomed hundreds of lobbyists into his administration. A 2019 ProPublica analysis found that he employed lobbyists at eight times the rate of the Obama administration. He's also pursued numerous business deals in Russia, and his properties have taken tens of millions of dollars from Russian oligarchs, according to Reuters.
- At one point, Jones said Joe Biden "uses Ukraine as a money-laundering operation." It's not clear what that means, and there is no evidence that Joe Biden has financial ties to Ukraine at all — he's made his tax returns public. Rogan ignored Jones's comment altogether.
- Soon afterward, Jones said Chinese president Xi Jinping "owns Hollywood" and has expressed his love for Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Rogan didn't push back at all, claiming Xi may have made the comments only to push back against Trump's trade policies.
While it's true that major American studios have capitulated to Chinese demands for censorship, Xi certainly does not run them. And while Xi may run re-education camps for Muslims, Insider found no record of him praising Hitler and Stalin.
- Jones said that, in recent court papers, Ghislaine Maxwell said Bill Clinton flew to Jeffrey Epstein's private island, and "it's gotten no attention" from media outlets.
In fact, in the newly unsealed deposition Maxwell took in 2016, she said she had never been with Clinton on Epstein's private island. Clinton has denied ever going on the island, though he has flown on Epstein's jet several times. Rogan did not address Jones's comment.
- Both Rogan and Jones pushed a theory that "they" (they never explain who) killed William Colby, the former Director of Central Intelligence, whose death in 1996 has led to several conspiracy theories. Colby was found dead at the age of 76 near his canoe after going on a solo canoe trip, and medical examiners said he likely died of a heart condition.
- According to Jones, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein is a "main Chinese asset" and the Chinese Communist party is "running the blackmail rings with Hunter Biden in the Democratic Party." There's no evidence of these claims. Jones may have been making a reference to a report that Feinstein removed one of her staffers in 2018 after Chinese spies attempted to recruit them.
- Jones claimed that Bill Gates said in an interview with CBS News that he was OK with 80% of people dying in COVID-19 vaccine trials. Gates said no such thing, and the vaccines he supports are not causing mass death. Rogan laughed when Jones made the claim and moved on.
- Jones said the former astronaut Buzz Aldrin appeared on his Infowars show to say that "aliens built the pyramids" and endorsed Trump. Aldrin did once appear on his show but certainly did not say in that episode that aliens built the pyramids. Also, it was 2009, so he definitely didn't endorse Trump. Rogan did not push back against Jones's claim.
At the end of the episode, Jones said he wanted to retire in 2021. "I'm dying, so I can't do this much longer," he said.
"I'd like to finish up my work, clean up mistakes, I made a lot of other stuff because I'm going to die of a heart attack going crazy," Jones said. "I'm totally stressed out, Joe."
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