It has been one of the more unhinged episodes in the press this year, and it reveals so much about the journalism complex in general, and certainly CNN, in particular. Since the pandemic broke last year, the media have been operating in a perpetual paradox, claiming there is a need for medical and scientific rectitude while at the same time dispensing with rampant examples of misinformation. The recent Joe Rogan drama underscores all of this as it displayed all angles of the Covid miasma in the media, and CNN was among the loudest participants.
Just to recap, in early September, Rogan announced he had tested positive for the virus. This sent the media into a fury of excitement, as the podcaster was an avowed anti-mandate voice. There was also the bonus that he contracted the virus in Florida, as then the state was being demonized as a hot zone of the Delta variant due to Ron DeSantis policies. (Sidenote: We hear nothing of Florida today in the press, as the state has some of the lowest infection rates with zero change in DeSantis policies.)
Then Rogan threw all the media narratives askew when he announced he had been cleared of the virus in short order, and this was partly due to having been administered with a cocktail treatment that included doses of Ivermectin. Here was a selected target as an example of "misinformation" completely coming back and defying the narrative, and the press went into a spiral. Rogan became a regular feature on news outlets as a dangerous source of information, particularly at CNN.
The coverage of the media personality in the following weeks almost always mentioned the claim that he had taken veterinary medication, "horse dewormer" drugs, and that this was sending a dangerous message. The irony, of course, is that CNN was directly trafficking in misinformation rather than actually investigating and exploring the story.
On CNN's airwaves, a battalion of personalities claimed that Joe Rogan took a livestock medication. Anderson Cooper, Brian Stelter, Don Lemon, Jim Acosta, Erin Burnett, Leana Wen, and Bakari Sellers were among the notables declaring he self-administered animal drugs, suggesting that Rogan bought Ivermectin at a grain and feed store and went home to consume it in his garage. It was outlandish and obvious what was behind this concerted effort.
The embarrassment only got worse when the network's own medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, appeared on Rogan's podcast. Rogan did not hold back about CNN's coverage of his experience. "It's a lie. It's a lie on a news network, and it's a lie…that they're conscious of. This is not a mistake," said Rogan.
It was there that Gupta had to make the admission that, yes, Rogan had not only taken a human version of the medication but that it had been prescribed to him by a physician. Then, amazingly, Dr. Gupta did admit that his network had been delivering false information regarding the treatments Rogan received. These are details that were evident to most, but they became unimpeachable when CNN's own resident medical expert confirmed it to be the case. The network could no longer stand by these various claims they had broadcast.
Well...that is exactly what CNN has done. In an amazing display, the news outlet has responded to questions about their coverage of Rogan, and not only is there a doubling-down on their position, but they also unspooled unhinged commentary. Eric Wemple of The Washington Post reached out to CNN for comment, following Dr. Gupta's admission, and this was the response he received from the network executives:
The heart of this debate has been purposely confused and ultimately lost. It’s never been about livestock versus human dosage of Ivermectin. The issue is that a powerful voice in the media, who by example and through his platform, sowed doubt in the proven and approved science of vaccines while promoting the use of an unproven treatment for covid-19 — a drug developed to ward off parasites in farm animals. The only thing CNN did wrong here was bruise the ego of a popular podcaster who pushed dangerous conspiracy theories and risked the lives of millions of people in doing so.
So much to untruck here. The first sentence they write describes...themselves. There has been one source attributable to confusing this debate – CNN. The second sentence is a complete lie. The debate has been specifically all about livestock-versus-human use of Ivermectin. CNN has all along been untruthful about Rogan taking a veterinary drug, ignorant of, or ignoring, that there are human applications and dosages. CNN on-air figures routinely accused Rogan of taking a livestock drug. That cannot be denied, as they cling to that farcical and false claim here in their statement.
Wemple, after granting a small dose of leeway to the network on some points, concluded that this response is pretty poor in its content:
The “issue,” actually, begins and ends with the integrity of CNN’s content. If we take Rogan’s prescription claim at face value — and CNN hasn’t challenged it — then the network’s coverage was slanted in some cases and straight-up incorrect in others.
In other words, they presented stark misinformation. They lied repeatedly.
What is astounding in this official response by the network brass is that they have had the time and the resources to look into the matter. They were not only called out on their reporting, but their own medical source confirmed the errors in their reports. This would have been the impetus to say, 'Okay, let's look into all of this and get the facts straight.' Instead, they resisted that very basic action.
There is no way to dispute that Ivermectin has human applications. It has been prescribed for decades, and the Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded for discovery on a new human use for it in 2015. This is the management of a news network that is not only refusing to retract provably false information, but it is also going beyond doubling down – they are digging in. That they are doing this on a topic that has been claimed by themselves to be a public health imperative, with a heightened need to be accurate, is all the more remarkable.
This episode illustrates the fundamental problem with CNN. It cannot be passed off as a reckless move by a lone journalist or a professional editorial mistake. This is an organizational issue. When the executive offices are seen taking a fraudulent position on a serious news matter, it underscores the direction of the entire news operation. We need to thank the CNN front office; they just provided us with justification for questioning any of their content going forward.