I understand Rogan’s appeal. I was once a regular listener. Although not all of my colleagues would agree, I found him to be a genuinely funny, engaging host who welcomes his guests to try to prove him wrong. But the more I tuned in, the more uncomfortable I got. Under the albeit honorable guise of giving every end of the political spectrum a fair shake, he’s introduced his mega-audience to guests with unquestionably racist and sexist views, which go largely unchallenged. In one episode, his guest Gad Saad floated the debunked myth that the term Islamophobia only exists as a political ploy to give cover to dangerous foreign Islamist groups. In another, Gavin McInnes, founder of the Proud Boys, a violent far-right gang, uses bogus statistics to argue that the Muslim world, where my family immigrated from, is too inbred for the West. Rogan also makes a game of having white people say the N-word and dabbles in transphobia and sexism, all nonchalantly mixed in with sometimes genuinely nuanced conversations about foreign policy, media, and sports. That these views are smuggled in between seemingly thoughtful conversations makes the unchecked bigotry all the more dangerous.
This is, needless to say, not a person whom Sanders should be excited to have in his camp. And after backlash on social media, the campaign responded disappointingly. “The goal of our campaign is to build a multi-racial, multi-generational movement that is large enough to defeat Donald Trump and the powerful special interests whose greed and corruption is the root cause of the outrageous inequality in America,” Sanders’ press secretary said in a statement. “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. The truth is that 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.”