Rogan, Musk, RFK Jr. Zero In on One Vaccine Scientist

Dr. Peter Hotez of Houston says he's being 'stalked'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2023 11:11 AM CDT
Rogan, Musk, RFK Jr. Zero In on One Vaccine Scientist
In this November 2021 photo, Dr. Peter Hotez finds his seat before first lady Jill Biden speaks about pediatric COVID-19 vaccines at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.   (AP Photo/Justin Rex)

Anthony Fauci has long been public enemy No. 1 in the eyes of vaccine opponents. With Fauci retired, it appears that a vaccine scientist in Houston might be assuming the unwanted role. The scientist is Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, per the Houston Chronicle. He has been thrust into the spotlight in large part due to podcaster Joe Rogan. The chain of events:

  • Rogan had presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on his show last week, and Kennedy voiced his long-standing criticism about vaccines, per Insider.
  • An analysis at Vice described the show as "an orgy of unchecked vaccine misinformation," faulting both Rogan and Spotify, where his show runs, for allowing it to air.

  • Hotez tweeted a link to the Vice article, showing his support for it. That caught the attention of Rogan, who tweeted that he would give $100,000 to charity if Hotez would come on his show to debate Kennedy. Investor Bill Ackman then raised the amount to $150,000, per Insider (then others apparently followed), and Elon Musk himself accused Hotez of being afraid to debate.
  • On Sunday morning, two people showed up at Hotez's home, and one named Alex Rosen filmed himself firing questions at the scientist and telling him to debate Kennedy. Hotez tweeted afterward that it felt as if he were being "stalked." He told Mehdi Hasan of MSNBC that it was "overwhelming," adding that "the attacks from the anti-vaccine lobby do come in waves. ... This time, though, it's been one of the tougher ones." He referred to much of the anti-vax information online as "total whack-a-doodle."
  • Hotez isn't ruling out an appearance on Rogan's show, where he has previously been a guest. But he explained his reluctance to debate in a Twitter thread Sunday: "Science is not something that is typically debated like say 18th[-century] enlightenment philosophy or political issues," he wrote. He added: "I'm not even certain I know how to 'debate' in this case. And then there is the particular problem of debating RFK Jr on this. I have spoken to him over the years and I'm willing to speak to him again, but it's not easy ... he tends to move the goalposts on his specific concerns about vaccines."
(More Robert F. Kennedy Jr. stories.)

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