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Joe Rogan apologizes for ‘regretful and shameful’ past use of the n-word

Joe Rogan introduces fighters during the UFC 269 ceremonial weigh-in at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Dec. 10 in Las Vegas. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Joe Rogan apologized Saturday for the many previous instances in which the host used the n-word on his Spotify podcast.

Rogan, already under fire in recent weeks after medical professionals and musicians decried him for helping spread misinformation on the coronavirus, posted a video on Instagram to address what he described as “the most regretful and shameful thing that I’ve ever had to talk about publicly.”

Rogan made the apology in response to a compilation video shared widely on social media this past week showing various moments over 12 years in which Rogan said the n-word on his show. The video was posted by singer India.Arie, who recently removed her catalogue from Spotify in response to Rogan’s “language around race.”

While Rogan argued that the clips were taken out of context, the comedian acknowledged that the video looked “horrible, even to me.” In a caption accompanying the video, Rogan wrote that there was “a lot of s--- from the old episodes of the podcast that I wish I hadn’t said, or had said differently.”

“I know that to most people there is no context where a White person is ever allowed to say that word, never mind publicly on a podcast, and I agree with that now,” Rogan said in the video, adding that he hadn’t said the racial slur “in years.”

Rogan noted how the discussions linked to the clips where he said the slur were about how the n-word had been used by a White comedians like Lenny Bruce or Black comedians such as Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor. He added that he never used the n-word “to be racist because, I’m not racist.”

“I was also talking about how there’s not another word like it in the English language because it’s a word where only one group of people is allowed to use it — and they can use it in so many different ways,” he said in the video. “If a White person uses it, it’s racist, it’s toxic. But a Black person can use it and it can be a punchline, it can be a term of endearment, it can be lyrics to a rap song, it can be a positive affirmation.

“It’s a very unusual word, but it’s not my word to use. I’m well aware of it now,” he added.

Spokesmen for Rogan and Spotify did not immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday.

Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, podcaster Brené Brown and more are standing up to Spotify for allowing Joe Rogan to keep airing coronavirus misinformation. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post)

The apology comes as Spotify has been under increased pressure to do more about Rogan for spreading misinformation on a show that reaches an estimated audience of 11 million people an episode. Rogan has repeatedly downplayed the need for coronavirus vaccines and used his platform to flirt with misinformation about covid-19. Podcasters and artists such as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell have told the streaming service they were taking their work off Spotify because the company was allowing Rogan to spread misinformation on the pandemic. Spotify acquired Rogan’s podcast library in 2020 in a reported $100 million deal.

Why artists are leaving Spotify

After Spotify announced that it was tweaking its policies about coronavirus content by adding a disclaimer to any podcast dealing with the virus and the disease it causes, covid-19, Rogan admitted last Sunday that he could do more to better inform his millions of listeners, particularly when it comes to the pandemic.

“I don’t always get it right,” he said.

Jon Stewart backs Joe Rogan in Spotify flap

Listeners also noted that about 70 episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience” were taken off Spotify.

Among the purged content is a 2018 appearance by Gad Saad, a marketing professor who studies behavioral sciences at Concordia University at Montreal. On Twitter, Saad said that, “if memory serves me right,” Rogan had used the n-word, “but it was not in a racist manner notwithstanding the likely minefield.”

Saad said that he did not remember the conversation in full, but that he recalled telling Rogan about a university dean getting fired after recommending a book with the n-word in the title — one, Saad said, that had been written by a Black civil rights activist.

“If you’re using the n-word to describe a title, as told to you by a guest on your show, then maybe Spotify should have the most minimal of functioning brain and say, ‘That doesn’t seem to violate anything,’ ” Saad said in a video. “Actually, in my view, it insults the dignity of Black people to say that they must be so emotionally fragile, that the mention of that word, literally in any context is simply unacceptable.”

Neither Rogan nor Spotify have given a reason for the episodes being pulled.

The compilation video featuring Rogan’s use of the racial slur spread on Twitter this past week. After posting the clip, which was shared by many other accounts across social media, Arie said on Instagram that Rogan “shouldn’t even be uttering the word.”

“Don’t say it, under any context,” she wrote.

On Saturday, Rogan also addressed a clip shared of him telling a story about being around Black people while seeing the film “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, like we were in Planet of the Apes,’ ” he said. “I did not, nor would I ever, say that Black people are apes, but it sure … sounded like that. And I immediately said, ‘That’s a racist thing to say.’ ”

He acknowledged that he deleted that episode since it was “an idiotic thing to say.”

“I was just trying to be entertaining,” he added. “I certainly wasn’t trying to be racist, and I certainly would never want to offend someone for entertainment with something as stupid as racism.”

Rogan concluded by saying that “it makes me sick watching that video.” He said he hoped this moment “can be a teachable moment” for him moving forward.

“There’s nothing I can do to take that back. I wish I could, but obviously that’s not possible. I never thought it would ever be taken out of context and put in a video like that,” he said. “My sincere and humble apologies. I wish there was more that I could say.”

María Luisa Paúl contributed to this report.

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