The Biden administration sought to place a “trusted messenger” on Joe Rogan’s podcast to promote Covid-19 vaccines, according to records obtained by Judicial Watch.
The conservative watchdog group published 249 pages of records from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) outlining the agency’s plans to push the Covid-19 vaccine via various media sources.
A public education campaign plan dated April 19 to May 31, 2021 suggested the agency could “Place a trusted messenger on the Joe Rogan Show and Barstool Sports to promote vaccination (work with outside expert to identify who will be most effective).”
Asked about the documents and whether HHS has been successful in placing a messenger on Rogan’s show, a spokesperson for the agency said: “As has been reported previously, HHS, in both the Trump and Biden Administrations, has done regular engagements to ensure Americans know about COVID-19 and the resources that they have to protect themselves.”
“The ‘We Can Do This’ public education campaign under the Biden Administration has worked hard when it comes to reaching communities across the U.S. where they are, and informing them about safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines through paid and digital media, influencer engagement, and partnership outreach,” the spokesperson added. “Through ‘We Can Do This’ and other efforts, HHS will continue to encourage people to get the updated COVID-19 vaccine and fight vaccine misinformation.”
Rogan’s pandemic-related conversations with guests on his podcast oftentimes diverged from medical and scientific consensus, causing him to become a prominent voice of vaccine skepticism.
Rogan’s podcasts on Covid-19 and vaccination led to a campaign by several celebrity singers to have him deplatformed by Spotify in January 2022 over his spreading of alleged disinformation. Rogan has a licensing deal with Spotify worth more than $100 million.
Neil Young told Spotify it must deplatform Rogan or he would pull his music. Joni Mitchell later made a similar threat but Spotify did not cave.
Spotify responded to the criticism by agreeing to add a content advisory to any podcast episode that involved discussion about Covid-19, directing listeners to Covid-19 hub that links out to “trusted sources.”
In April 2021, HHS publicly announced it was launching a “nationwide, grassroots network of local voices and trusted community leaders to encourage vaccinations, with more than 275 founding member organizations that have the ability to reach millions of Americans.”
“This effort will mobilize health professionals, scientists, community organizations, faith leaders, businesses, rural stakeholders, civil rights organizations, sports leagues and athletes, and Americans from all walks of life to become leaders within their own communities to help get friends, family, and neighbors vaccinated,” the agency said in a press release at the time.
The HHS documents obtained by Judicial Watch included a number of paths the agency could potentially use to promote the vaccine, including to request a vaccination special on Christian Broadcast Network featuring Evangelic leaders, to request that major TV entertainment feature hosts get vaccinated on air, and to convene an editorial meeting with the publishers of Catholic newspaper and newsletters across the country, including America Magazine, Florida Catholic, The Catholic Spirit, and The Tablet.
Other objectives on the list included requesting that “the TV morning and daytime talk shows feature special vaccination reunion moments with everyday Americans talking about what this means to them (ex: hugging grandma for the first time)” and requesting vaccination specials with BET, The Undefeated, Desus & Mero, and Hot Ones.