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Joe Rogan Saga Continues

It’s Tuesday, February 8th, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast:

1) Joe Rogan Saga Continues

The Topline: Spotify has announced they’re sticking with Joe Rogan, as competing platforms offer Rogan massive contracts and new details call into question the origins of the campaign against him.

Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg/Contributor via Getty Images

The Fallout

Late Sunday night, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek sent an email to staff saying despite growing outrage from the media and the political Left, the company would not be censoring Rogan. He called Rogan’s past comments and use of racial slurs, “incredibly hurtful,” but appeared to stand his ground, saying, “We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope.” He also confirmed that the more than 70 episodes that had been removed from Spotify earlier in the week were taken down at Rogan’s request. 

Many Spotify employees were openly furious that the company was still paying Rogan a reported $100 million contract, so CEO Daniel Ek announced they’d be investing a separate $100 million towards content from “historically marginalized groups.” Some applauded the decision, but many others said the company was caving to threats of censorship. 

The CEO of Rumble, a newer social media platform, offered Rogan $100 million for a four year contract. In the memo posted online, he said, “We stand with you, your guests, and your legion of fans in desire for real conversation. So we’d like to offer you 100 million reasons to make the world a better place.” He closed the message by saying the offer was “totally legit.” 

Coordinated Attack?

Some have speculated that the attack on Rogan seemed coordinated. 

The first viral video compilation of Rogan using the “n-word” was posted by a relatively obscure account on Twitter, leaving speculation as to how it went viral in the first place. However, the account says they’re partnered with a Democrat Super Pac, which has taken in more than $5 million from unnamed donors since 2020, and openly comments on their ability to make content go viral. Their website refers to the group’s founders as “lifelong Democrats protecting American democracy, defeating Trumpism and holding Republicans accountable.” 

Liu Lu/VCG/Contributor via Getty Images

2) Low Interest In Beijing Winter Olympics

The Topline: The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are underway, but according to TV ratings, enthusiasm for the event is low.

Lack Of Enthusiasm

According to NBC Sports, the Opening Ceremony drew only 16 million viewers, a record low and 43% decrease from the opening of the 2018 Winter Games.

The lack of viewership could also be due to the 13-hour difference between Beijing and the east coast of the U.S. Another reason could be that people are tired of watching the Olympics, since the Tokyo Summer Olympics took place six months ago, though Olympic ratings have been dropping for years, and the trend is continuing.

However, one of the main reasons for the lack of interest this year could be the location of the games themself.

In a Morning Consult poll, 40% of people said “they don’t plan to watch the Olympics this year because they are opposed to China hosting the Games, and 31 percent cited it as a ‘major’ reason.”

The Games

On Sunday, the women’s hockey match between Russia and Canada was delayed nearly 65 minutes due to the Canadian team refusing to leave the locker room as Russia’s day-before COVID-19 tests had yet to be processed. Both teams eventually reached an agreement in order to take the ice, with both hockey teams playing in N95 masks for the majority of the game. 

The Canadians won 6-1, and wore their masks for the entirety of the game, while the Russian squad removed their masks at the start of the third period after their COVID-19 test results were returned. 

The U.S. currently sits in 12th place in total medals with three, and no United States athlete has won a gold medal yet.

Mike Coppola/Staff/Getty Images for WarnerMedia via Getty Images

3) CNN’s Uncertain Future

The Topline: The departure of CNN President Jeff Zucker took many by surprise, but inside media circles, his exit has been discussed for well over a year. Now, the network faces serious questions about its future direction.

Bias

Early in the Trump era, Zucker and the CNN newsroom decided Trump could not be covered in traditional ways, and CNN essentially decided an extremely adversarial approach had to be taken to his presidency. But they were blunt about being advocates for Democrat politicians, including for former New York governor Andrew Cuomo.

Allison Gollust, who Zucker had been dating, had worked for both Governor Cuomo and Chris Cuomo. It appears that she and Zucker were advising the governor early on in the pandemic at the same time the network was praising him as America’s leader on COVID and holding the governor out as an alternative leader to then-President Trump. 

While it was cause for some concern at CNN, they and other outlets had an attitude that Trump and COVID was such a dire circumstance that the usual rules of journalism needed to be ignored. 

Steve Pfost/Newsday RM/Newsday LLC / Contributor via Getty Images

Other Stories We’re Tracking

Boosters

New data from the CDC indicates that COVID-19 booster shots may only provide significant added benefit for persons over the age of 50 or people with other risk factors. 

Australia

After nearly two years of strict lockdowns, Australia will begin accepting vaccinated travelers starting February 21st. Unvaccinated travelers with a medical reason for skipping the shot will need to apply for an exemption and will also be required to quarantine if approved. 

Lia Thomas

Sixteen members of the UPENN women’s swim team sent a letter through an attorney arguing that their transgender teammate, Lia Thomas, should not be able to compete against female swimmers. The letter affirms their support for Thomas’s lifestyle, but argues it’s unfair for male athletes to swim against female competitors. The swimmers chose to remain anonymous due to concerns about retaliation. 

Poll

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll found President Biden’s approval rating is at a new low. 41% of respondents say they approve of his handling of the job, while 56% disapprove – a 15-point gap. Asked how they feel about the direction of the country, 67% of Independents, 86% of Republicans, and 41% of Democrats say the country is on the “wrong track.”

GoFundMe

GoFundMe canceled the Freedom Convoy fundraiser over the weekend after it raised some $10 million Canadian dollars for the truckers. GoFundMe initially stated it would work with organizers to send any funds not already distributed to “credible and established charities verified by GoFundMe.” After backlash – including calls for investigations into the company – the donation platform announced it would “simplify” the process by instead refunding all the donations. 

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