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Whitlock: Joe Rogan, Ted Koppel, and Billy Graham were supposed to save America

Op-ed
Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images

Journalists should be Joe Rogan’s most passionate defenders.

His massive podcast following is built on asking questions. Rogan is an interviewer, not an opinionist. He’s Bob Ley, not Skip Bayless.

Do we even remember Bob Ley, the longtime ESPN broadcaster? Ley joined the sports network three days after its 1979 launch and was its signature on-air journalist until 2019. Ley retired. ESPN abandoned his signature show, “Outside the Lines,” which was sports television’s version of “Nightline.”

Joe Rogan’s success proves that journalism still makes good business sense. The presentation of information can still drive an audience. Information doesn’t need to be dressed up with bombast and snark.

Joe Rogan should be a hero.

Instead, he’s being turned into a pariah. His three-hour interviews with doctors who question the prevailing COVID narratives are being framed as an existential threat to our democracy and health. Rogan’s interviews are so dangerous that Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones accused Rogan of being racist. In a since-deleted tweet, Hannah-Jones alleged that Rogan’s popularity is due to America’s comfort with racism.

Hannah-Jones shared a compilation video of Rogan using the N-word. There is no context to the video. We don’t know how Rogan used the word. For some people context does not matter. Rogan is white. He used the N-word. He is racist.

I’ve watched Rogan’s interviews with Dr. Robert Malone and Dr. Peter McCullough. Malone and McCullough offered COVID opinions that contradict the official, government-approved narrative. I’ve seen a half-dozen other Rogan interviews. His interviews don’t strike me as particularly dangerous. I’ve heard nothing racist from Rogan.

He’s a comedian who likes to use drugs. It wouldn’t surprise me if he cracked jokes that could be deemed bigoted. In pursuit of laughs, comedians push the envelope. From Dave Chappelle to Redd Foxx to Andrew Dice Clay to Paul Mooney, comedians use racial stereotypes to make audiences laugh.

Now we’re using accusations of racism to silence people who ask the wrong questions or interview the wrong people.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times, Big Pharma, and Big Tech are determined to smear Joe Rogan with the same brush that smeared Alex Jones and Donald Trump. Most people believe Jones and Trump deserved to be smeared and deplatformed. The same is true of black nationalist Louis Farrakhan.

But where does the censorship stop?

Joe Rogan is a bigot? Is Bill Maher next? Dave Chappelle is transphobic.

When they’re done deplatforming and demonizing comedians, Christian ministers will be next. It’s already happening. Ministers are afraid to preach biblical truth. Their goal now is to be inclusive.

In a healthy, free society, journalists, comedians, and ministers should feel liberated to explore and discuss uncomfortable truths. Newspapers, comedic stages, and pulpits were sacred grounds for truth-telling. Journalists, comedians, and ministers are supposed to set the boundaries for truthful debate. Big Tech is a poor substitute.
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