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L.A. unhoused advocates ‘shocked and saddened’ by Joe Rogan’s violent remarks

A bald man in a black collared shirt pursing his lips
Joe Rogan attends a 2018 UFC event in Chicago.
(Dylan Buell / Getty Images)

Advocates for Los Angeles’ unhoused community are holding Joe Rogan accountable for encouraging violence toward unhoused people on his influential podcast.

In recent interviews with Variety, advocates for unhoused people criticized the latest installment of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” which included a discussion about homelessness in L.A. between the host and his guest, Tom Segura.

During the episode, which began streaming July 14 on Spotify, Rogan acted surprised when comedian Segura pointed out that unhoused people’s belongings are “protected property ... by law” in L.A.

Rogan has been the center of a firestorm of controversy surrounding how Spotify manages misinformation about COVID-19 on its audio platform.

“Oh, a homeless person’s property is protected?” Rogan asked, to which Segura replied, “Absolutely,” and implied that anyone who tried to “move” or “take” an unhoused person’s belongings would face consequences for their actions.

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“You’d get arrested,” Rogan said. “Hilarious. But they wouldn’t arrest you if you shot somebody. Maybe you should just go shoot the homeless people.”

“I like your ideas,” Segura told Rogan, who claimed that “nobody does anything about violent crime in L.A. anymore.”

In a stand-up set Tuesday, podcaster and comedian Joe Rogan weighed in on the controversy that has entangled him and Spotify over the past few weeks.

Suffice to say Rogan’s remarks were not well received on social media or by local activists.

Theo Henderson, an advocate for unhoused people who created the podcast “We the Unhoused,” expressed concerns that Rogan’s “repulsive” statements could provoke listeners to harm unhoused people in real life.

“It’s infuriating because it’s not only out of touch, but the reality is that unhoused people are targeted by housed people,” Henderson told Variety.

“To advocate trying to shoot at unhoused people or just giving these dog whistles to people that do not see unhoused people as human beings — I can’t believe you’d advocate for it.”

This conversation between activist Theo Henderson and scholar Ananya Roy foregrounds the endeavors and collaborations that seek to challenge such erasure.

Also “surprised and saddened” by Rogan’s behavior was Andy Bales, president of the homeless shelter Union Rescue Mission in downtown L.A. After listening to Rogan’s podcast, Bales invited the host “to come to Union Rescue Mission to see ... what’s happening on the streets and who these people are who he’s talking about.”

“The comments about beginning to kill homeless people hits too close to reality for any comfort, because murders of homeless people in Los Angeles went up 47% last year over the previous year,” Bales told Variety.

“There is a bit of an unfortunate vigilantism already in Los Angeles towards people devastated by homelessness and they don’t need any encouragement.”

A plan to house up to 10,000 homeless people on the former Sears campus in Boyle Heights draws backlash from residents.

Last week’s episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience” also ignited a sharp backlash on social media.

“What trash and actually dangerous comments given his influence,” tweeted public relations and communications consultant Meggan Ellingboe, who urged Spotify to donate to local nonprofit radio station Dublab in support of Henderson’s podcast.

Hey @SpotifyUSA - do you think this kind of dangerous, stupid blather is okay?” tweeted @joe_curtaincall. “When a homeless person gets shot soon, are you going to defend Rogan?”

“How devoid of human decency do you have to be to even entertain an idea like this or even joke about it????” tweeted actor and biologist Christine Heideman.

Of course, this is far from the first time Rogan has come under fire for things he has said on his show, which boasts more listeners than any other podcast on Spotify. Earlier this year, Neil Young and other entertainment luminaries abandoned the streaming platform to protest Rogan “spreading false information” about the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘The fact that he did it repeatedly and was conscious and knew — I think that is being racist,’ India Arie said of Joe Rogan saying the N-word.

Singer-songwriter India Arie, who boycotted Spotify last winter along with Young, also called Rogan out for “being consciously racist” and saying the N-word repeatedly on his podcast.

After Arie posted video footage on social media of Rogan using the racist slur about 20 times, the podcast host apologized and said he hoped “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.”

In response to criticism of his stances on the coronavirus, Rogan vowed to do his “best to try to balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people’s perspectives, so we can maybe find a better point of view.”

A representative for Rogan did not immediately respond Tuesday to The Times’ request for comment.


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