The head of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, issued a statement saying that although Sanders has “run a campaign unabashedly supportive of the rights of LGBTQ people,” Rogan has “attacked transgender people, gay men, women, people of color and countless marginalized groups at every opportunity.”
“Given Rogan’s comments, it is disappointing that the Sanders campaign has accepted and promoted the endorsement,” Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David said in the statement. “The Sanders campaign must reconsider this endorsement and the decision to publicize the views of someone who has consistently attacked and dehumanized marginalized people.”
Briahna Joy Gray, national press secretary for the Sanders campaign, issued a statement that did not name Rogan but suggested that the campaign is willing to accept support from people with whom it does not always agree.
“Sharing a big tent requires including those who do not share every one of our beliefs, while always making clear that we will never compromise our values,” said Gray. “The truth is that by standing together in solidarity, we share the values of love and respect that will move us in the direction of a more humane, more equal world.”
The friction comes as Sanders is trying to expand his coalition less than two weeks before the first nominating contest in Iowa on Feb. 3. He has been rising in the polls, showing strength in the Democratic presidential contest both nationally and in the early states.
Sanders has previously drawn criticism for associating himself with controversial figures. In December, he abruptly retracted his endorsement of congressional candidate Cenk Uygur after widespread criticism over Uygur’s explicit and demeaning comments about women and minorities.
Rogan is a provocative comedian who hosts a popular podcast called “The Joe Rogan Experience,” on which Sanders appeared last year. Rogan said this week he would probably vote for Sanders. The Vermont senator promoted Rogan’s remarks on Twitter.
“I think I’ll probably vote for Bernie,” said Rogan. He called him “insanely consistent” and praised him for not straying from his long-held principles.
The Human Rights Campaign cited comments Rogan made in 2013 taking issue with a transgender mixed martial arts fighter wanting to fight women and discussing anatomical details in graphic terms.
Rogan has a large following and is particularly popular with men. Some, seeing him as a boon to Sanders at a moment when the senator is seeking to expand his appeal, took to social media to praise Sanders’s decision to accept the endorsement.
Asked if the campaign had any response to the Human Rights Campaign statement, Sanders spokesman Mike Casca said, “No.”