Joe Rogan apologizes for using N-word in past; Spotify removes about 70 old episodes

Joe Rogan in a red T-shirt holding a microphone at a UFC event.
Joe Rogan has been at the heart of several controversies at Spotify in recent weeks.
(Stacy Revere / Getty Images)

Popular Spotify podcast host Joe Rogan, who is white, apologized early Saturday morning for previously using the N-word after the musician India Arie, who is Black, posted a video montage online of Rogan saying the word about 20 times on his show across the years.

Spotify, which has been beleaguered by Rogan-related controversies for weeks, removed about 70 old episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience” on Friday, according to the website JRE Missing, giving no explanation. Rogan’s show has more than 1,700 episodes overall.

“I know for most people there’s no context where a white person is allowed to say that word, never mind publicly on a podcast, and I agree with that now,” Rogan said in an Instagram video Saturday morning. “I haven’t said it in years, but for a long time, when I would bring that word up, instead of saying the N-word, I would just say the word.”


Rogan said he would use the word referentially in various contexts, like when quoting others or talking about other people using the word. He said he didn’t use the word himself. “I’m not racist, but whenever you’re in a situation where you have to say ‘I’m not racist,’ you f— up, and I clearly have f— up.”

Rogan also apologized for a clip “that makes me sick” from a decade ago when he told a story on a deleted episode of the show about getting dropped off in an “all-Black neighborhood” to see the movie “Planet of the Apes.”

“I was trying to make the story entertaining, and I said, we got out, and it was ‘like we were in Africa, it’s like we were in Planet of the Apes,’” Rogan recounted. “I did not, nor would I ever say Black people are apes, but it sure f— sounded like that.”

Rogan said “it’s a f— idiotic thing to say, and I was just trying to be entertaining, I certainly wasn’t trying to be racist.” He added: “I can’t go back in time and change what I said, I wish I could, obviously that’s not possible, but I do hope this could be a teachable moment for anybody that doesn’t realize how offensive that word could be coming out of a white person’s mouth, in context or out of context.”

Arie is part of a small wave of artists who asked to have their music pulled off Spotify over the past month. The boycotts were initially triggered by Rogan’s uncritical interview on Dec. 30 of a COVID-19 vaccine skeptic, Robert Malone, which drew concern about “misinformation” from medical professionals, academics and artists like Neil Young.

Spotify Chief Executive Daniel Ek, in an internal town hall earlier this week, told concerned employees that the company does not approve Rogan’s guests or edit his show before publication, but vowed “to consistently enforce our policies on even the loudest and most popular voices on the platform,” hinting that Rogan episodes would be removed if they violated Spotify’s content guidelines.


Spotify did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Arie on Friday said her own decision was based on racist remarks Rogan had previously made on his show. In a series of Instagram Stories clips — hashtagged #DELETESPOTIFY and #whatifweallleave — she said she wanted to post the Rogan clips to contextualize her earlier decision. (Arie’s Instagram Stories clips are no longer publicly available because Stories clips are automatically removed after 24 hours.)

“I empathize with the people who are leaving for the COVID disinformation reasons,” Arie said. “And I think that they should. I also think Joe Rogan has the right to say what he wants to say. I also think that I have the right to say what I want to say.”

Arie said she was upset that the money Spotify makes from her own work and other musicians, who have long complained about paltry streaming royalty payments, were being used to pay for shows like Rogan’s.

“Spotify is built on the back of the music streaming. So they take this money that’s built from streaming and they pay this guy $100 million, but they pay us .003% of a penny? Just take me off! I don’t want to generate money that pays for this. Just take me off. That’s where I’m at.”

Echoing Rogan’s own remarks about his use of the N-word being taken out of context, Arie added: “We know how social media can be. People are taken out of context, this happened to me, many times. However, I want to be clear in no uncertain terms where I stand on this is that 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.”

Arie added: “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. One of the hashtags I put on my posts, the written one, was #whatifweallleave. That’s what I’m trying to see if we could get to happen. What if we all leave? Then we can start having a conversation. You can go from a conversation to a negotiation.”