Joe Rogan posted an apology Saturday and Spotify appeared to have removed roughly 70 episodes of his podcast as videos of Rogan using racial slurs in past shows spread on social media. The news comes amid a musician-led protest of Spotify over allowing Rogan’s podcast to spread COVID-19 misinformation.
Earlier this week, Grammy-winning singer India.Arie, who’s pulled her catalog from Spotify, shared a compilation video via Instagram that shows Rogan uttering a racial slur on numerous past episodes of his show. She acknowledged that clips can be taken out of context but said Rogan shouldn’t be using such slurs under any circumstances. She also posted a message saying Rogan was problematic not just because of his COVID interviews but also because of “his language around race.”
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The podcast host, who in 2020 inked a deal reportedly worth more than $100 million to distribute his show exclusively on Spotify, took to Instagram early Saturday to say he was sorry. “I certainly wasn’t trying to be racist,” Rogan said, “and I certainly would never want to offend someone for entertainment with something as stupid as racism.” Rogan said he agrees he shouldn’t use such slurs, regardless of the context.
Read more: Spotify won’t ax Joe Rogan till Bad Bunny or The Weeknd protests too
The apology came shortly after a fan-made website found that roughly 70 episodes of the podcast were no longer available on Spotify. The website, JREMissing, uses Spotify’s API to compare available episodes to a database of all episodes recorded.
Spotify has previously excluded episodes of the podcast for violating its content policies. CNET can’t confirm a link between the currently circulating videos and the disappearance of the episodes. Neither Spotify nor Rogan responded to requests for comment.
In his apology video, Rogan does say that at some point he deleted one particular podcast episode over what he called an idiotic and racist remark he’d clumsily made. And on Saturday, Bloomberg cited an anonymous source in reporting that Spotify took down dozens of episodes of the podcast after Rogan made the decision following a conversation with the company.
The new controversy and apparent removals come amid broader concern about Rogan’s podcast serving as a platform for COVID misinformation. Rocker Neil Young and folk icon Joni Mitchell pulled their music from Spotify after an open letter signed by more than 250 medical professionals, researchers and professors pointed to the podcast as evidence the streaming service was assisting in the promotion of misinformation.
CEO Daniel Ek has defended the inclusion of Rogan on the company’s roster and told a company town hall that the podcast was vital to Spotify’s success.
“If we want even a shot at achieving our bold ambitions, it will mean having content on Spotify that many of us may not be proud to be associated with,” Ek said during the town hall. “Not anything goes, but there will be opinions, ideas and beliefs that we disagree with strongly and even makes us angry or sad.”