Comedian Jon Stewart is comparing his opposition to the 2003 Iraq War with Joe Rogan’s anti-vaxx status, saying his comments would have been considered misinformation at the time.
Amid Rogan’s ongoing backlash for spreading COVID-19 misinformation on his Spotify podcast, Stewart has defended the commentator for his openness to different points of view. In his most recent episode of The Problem With Jon Stewart, Stewart spoke with Harvard professor Joan Donovan, who leads the Technology and Social Change Project, to discuss the slippery slope of misinformation.
Donovan began the episode by discussing the difference between misinformation and disinformation. She said disinformation is sharing inaccurate information, most of the time for political purposes, with veracity and intent. Misinformation is characterized as the spread of false information, regardless of an intent to deceive, and is often never error-corrected.
Stewart then brought up the media’s coverage of the Iraq war when publications like The New York Times were in favor of the war. Stewart said he was “very vocal” in his opposition to the war, clashing with mainstream media at the time.
“In the Iraq war I was on the side of what you would think on the mainstream is misinformation,” Stewart said. “I was promoting what they would call misinformation, but it turned out to be right years later. And the establishment media was wrong.”
Stewart then went on to say that accountability for spreading misinformation rarely happens. Publishers like Spotify and the New York Times don’t bear the burden of correcting information, but the individuals do; that’s what Stewart said he has a problem with.
“And not only were they [the media] wrong, in some respects, you could make the case that they enabled a war that killed hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people and never paid a price for it, and never had accountability,” Stewart said.
Just as Stewart said he was an outlier protesting the Iraq war, he said the public shouldn’t be quick to judge Rogan for his anti-vaxx statements.
“It’s very easy to attack Rogan,” Stewart said. “And I’m not saying that that’s not your right and that there aren’t things there to talk about. But what I’m saying is let’s be careful, because the sands can shift.”
Other right-leaning figures such as former President Donald Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and Fox News have stepped up to defend Rogan amidst the COVID-19 vaccine information and widely circulated videos of Rogan using derogatory language including the N-word.
Though he has apologized publicly, Rogan said he hopes his listeners understand when something is said with negative intent rather than simply trying to be funny and the joke falls flat.