Jon Stewart calls ‘overreaction’ to Spotify’s Joe Rogan debacle ‘a mistake’

Jon Stewart has weighed in on the controversy surrounding Spotify and podcast host Joe Rogan.
(Victoria Will / Invision/Associated Press)

Comedian Jon Stewart is siding with controversial commentator Joe Rogan and thinks that artists pulling their music from Spotify to protest Rogan’s podcast is “an overreaction” and “a mistake.”

“Don’t leave. Don’t abandon. Don’t censor,” the former late-night host said on his Apple TV+ podcast “The Problem With Jon Stewart,” instead calling on critics to “engage.”

The former “Daily Show” host was asked by his co-hosts to weigh in on the debacle, which has ensnared Spotify and Rogan over the past week and has prompted public statements and apologies from both.


Rogan’s “The Joe Rogan Experience” is the streaming service’s most popular podcast, but critics have accused the show of spreading potentially dangerous misinformation about vaccines and COVID-19 treatments.

So far, the response to Neil Young’s call to pull music from Spotify has been largely muted among recording artists.

Feb. 1, 2022

After weeks of pressure from doctors and academics — and a high-profile boycott led by musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell — Spotify executives promised to add content warnings to COVID-19-related podcasts, including Rogan’s. The company also published its internal guidelines for removing COVID-19 misinformation, which it had lagged many industry peers in disclosing online.

Although Stewart didn’t raise the issue, Rogan has also been criticized for racist remarks, which musician India Arie recently cited as one of her reasons for leaving Spotify.

Noting that he’s a fan of Young’s music, Stewart said he thinks it’s all “overblown rhetoric.” He pointed to artists such as Eric Clapton, a notorious anti-vaxxer, and even jokingly accused Taylor Swift of spreading misinformation. (Stewart still thinks the “All Too Well” singer’s ex, Jake Gyllenhaal, is a stand-up guy — and doesn’t have that infamous scarf.)

“There’s no question that there is egregious misinformation that’s purposeful and hateful and all those other things. And that being moderated is a credit to the platforms that run them. But this overreaction to Rogan, I think, is a mistake,” the Emmy winner said.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek told employees Wednesday that the company is a platform for Joe Rogan, not Rogan’s publisher, setting a lower bar for content moderation.

Feb. 2, 2022

“Joe Rogan has power because so many people listen to him ... he has four-hour conversations and they are expansive and he may say some things that you think is misinformation. And he may platform people that you think are wrong. But to single that out as something so egregious ... I think there are dishonest bad actors in the world and identifying those is so much more important to me.”


Stewart took aim at longtime target Fox News, which he called “a willful conveyor of disinformation,” but noted that people and programs who are contracted with cable providers that carry the conservative network aren’t protesting in the same way.

Spotify isn’t new to controversy. Here’s a rundown of the music streamer’s history of feuds with artists and songwriters over royalties, privacy and more.

Feb. 2, 2022

He also pointed out that Rogan isn’t an ideologue because he’s willing to backtrack or be corrected in his arguments. Earlier this week, Rogan pledged to “balance out” more controversial viewpoints with other people’s perspectives.

“We are in competition for ideas and minds,” Stewart said, adding, “Unless you have a bomb that can kill ideas, it’s a doomed strategy. Like, make better arguments. I’m not saying it’ll work, but you can’t cloister yourself to what’s out there. You have to know. You have to.”

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He argued that “the whole point of engagement is, hopefully, clarification,” even if it’s “a fool’s errand,” and said he will never give up on engagement.

What Stewart’s really worried about? “The algorithm of misinformation [more] than the purveyor of misinformation.”

“Misinformation will always be there, but if the algorithm drives people further and further down the rabbit hole, the f— algorithm is the amplifier and the catalyst of extremism,” he said. “I would much rather f— with the algorithm than deplatform and all these other things.”