Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's lead medical correspondent, went on the popular podcast "The Joe Rogan Experience" earlier this week to discuss COVID-19 after Rogan repeatedly used his massive platform to spread misinformation about the disease.
After the three-hour discussion aired on Wednesday's episode of Rogan's Spotify podcast, a clip of Gupta saying CNN "shouldn't have said" Rogan used a "horse dewormer" when he contracted the novel coronavirus went viral.
Rogan declared CNN had lied. "Why would you say that when you're talking about a drug that has been given out to billions and billions of people? ... Why would they lie and say that's a horse dewormer?"
Thus began an online debate this week about who's telling the truth here, Rogan or CNN. Let's rewind.
On Sept. 1, Rogan announced via Instagram that he had recently tested positive for COVID.
"We immediately threw the kitchen sink at it," he said, "all kinds of meds. Monoclonal antibodies, ivermectin, Z-Pak, prednisone, everything. And I also got an NAD drip and a vitamin drip and I did that three days in a row. And here we are, Wednesday, and I feel great."
In CNN's initial coverage, a report by studio host Erin Burnett featured a chyron reading, "Joe Rogan says he has COVID, taking livestock drug despite warnings." In that report, Burnett described ivermectin as "a drug used for livestock."
A September segment on fellow host Don Lemon's show featured a chyron reading, "Joe Rogan, controversial podcast host, says he has COVID, taking unproven de-worming drug." Lemon said Rogan claimed he "took the de-worming drug, ivermectin, that has been touted by fringe right-wing groups."
In the segment on Lemon's show, medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner decried Rogan's therapeutic program, saying ivermectin "doesn't work [against COVID]. We know that. He said he received monoclonal antibodies. It's really not indicated for him. ... He said he took steroids: prednisone. That's only indicated for hospitalized patients on oxygen therapy. And finally, he said he took azithromycin [Z-Pak], an antibiotic, which doesn't work for a viral illness ... he's promoting kind of a crazy jumble of ... folk remedies and internet-prescribed drugs."
Not long after those September reports, on his podcast Rogan said of CNN, "They're making s— up. They keep saying I'm taking horse dewormer. I literally got it from a doctor ... they must know that's a lie. ... They're trying to make it seem like I'm doing some wacky s— that's completely ineffective. CNN was saying that I'm a distributor of misinformation."
When Rogan asked Gupta this week on his podcast, "Do you think that that's a problem that your news network lies?," their exchange went viral when Gupta replied, "There were people who were taking the veterinary medication and you're not, obviously. You got it from a doctor, so it shouldn't be called that [a horse dewormer]. Ivermectin can be a very effective medication for parasitic disease."
During the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-vaccination enthusiasts and conspiracy theorists began promoting the use of ivermectin as a possible treatment for the novel coronavirus. In testimony before a Senate Homeland Security committee meeting, Dr. Pierre Kory even called it "effectively a 'miracle drug' against COVID-19."
A North Dakota Department of Health document titled "Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19" summed up what many public health agencies have asserted: "Ivermectin does not treat or prevent COVID-19. Ivermectin is not a drug that treats viruses. Using any treatment for COVID-19 that is not approved or authorized by the FDA, unless part of a clinical trial, can cause serious harm ...
"Ivermectin preparation for animals is very different from those approved for humans. ... Humans should not take Ivermectin formulated for animals."
Rogan claims CNN is "lying" for seeming to say he took the veterinary formulation.
When Gupta appeared on Lemon's show Wednesday to discuss the podcast appearance, Lemon said Rogan "did say something about ivermectin that I think wasn't actually correct about CNN and lying. Ivermectin is a drug that is commonly used as a horse dewormer. So it is not a lie to say that the drug is used as a horse dewormer."
For his part, Gupta explained in a first-person essay published Thursday why he went on Rogan's podcast.
"OK, I am embellishing here, but Joe Rogan is the one guy in the country I wanted to exchange views with in a real dialogue — one that could potentially be among the most important conversations of this entire pandemic," he wrote. "After listening to his podcasts for a while now, I wanted to know: Was Joe simply a sower of doubt, a creator of chaos? Or was there something more?
"It bears repeating that no one should choose infection over vaccination. That is the concern many public health officials have had since the earliest days of the pandemic," Gupta added. "If nothing else comes out of my conversation with Joe Rogan, I hope at least this point does."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.