hotez the hero
Let's stand up for Dr. Peter Hotez after attacks from Joe Rogan, Elon Musk, RFK Jr., and their followers, says Ken Hoffman
Last Thursday, June 15, famous and infamous podcaster Joe Rogan interviewed presidential candidate and famous anti-vaxxer Robert Kennedy Jr. for three hours. During the interview RFK Jr. repeated his accusations that Covid vaccines are unnecessary and actually cause harm to children and vaccines are linked to autism – both assertions that have been proved incorrect.
RFK Jr. has long promoted conspiracy theories that the CIA murdered his uncle President John Kennedy and his father Robert Kennedy; vaccines contain dangerous levels of mercury; that Wi-Fi radiation could be causing autism, food allergies, asthma, eczema, and other illnesses; and that the government suppressed proof that ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine were effective in treating Covid.
In his most offensive assertion, RFK Jr. once said that Jews in Germany during Hitler’s holocaust had an easier time than Americans dealing with mask and vaccination mandates during the Covid pandemic.
“Even in Hitler’s Germany, you could cross the Alps to Switzerland,” he said. “You could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did.”
He failed to mention six million Jews were murdered during Hitler’s Third Reich and Anne Frank died in a Nazi concentration camp at age 15.
Hotez v RFK Jr. and Joe Rogan
A day after RFK Jr.’s appearance on the Rogan podcast, Houston super-scientist Dr. Peter Hotez, an outspoken advocate for Covid vaccines, tweeted a link to Vice article titled, “Spotify (Rogan’s streaming platform) has stopped even sort of trying to stem Joe Rogan’s vaccine information.”
Spotify Has Stopped Even Sort of Trying to Stem Joe Rogan’s Vaccine Misinformation. It’s really true @annamerlan just awful. And from all the online attacks I’m receiving after this absurd podcast, it’s clear many actually believe this nonsense https://t.co/GwIFsOODC2
— Prof Peter Hotez MD PhD (@PeterHotez) June 17, 2023
That spurred Rogan to go on Twitter and invite Hotez to debate RFK Jr. on his podcast and baited Hotez with a $100,000 donation offer to charity.
This is a non answer. I challenged you publicly because you publicly quote tweeted and agreed with that dogshit vice article. If you’re really serious about what you stand for, you now have a massive opportunity for a debate that will reach the largest audience a discussion… https://t.co/g1FGalC0Ym
— Joe Rogan (@joerogan) June 17, 2023
Then billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman upped the ante to $250,000 and Elon Musk raised the temperature by essentially calling Hotez a coward.
Hotez declined the invitation. Not someone who’s averse to a microphone or camera, Hotez did say he would go on Rogan’s podcast, just not with RFK Jr.
Joe Rogan challenged Hotez to a verbal duel with RFK Jr. on his podcast. Photo by James Law
“I offered to go on Joe Rogan but not to turn it into the Jerry Springer show with having RFK Jr. on,” Hotez told MSNBC.
“It’s clear from all the online attacks I’m receiving after this absurd podcast, it’s clear many actually believe this nonsense.”
Science isn't worth debating
That’s all well and good, and that’s where it should have ended.
If someone agrees with RFK’s anti-vax assertions, there are several ways to show that support: first, when the time comes, vote for him. You can write a letter to the editor. You can show up at RFK’s public events. You can donate money to his campaign. You can boycott companies that encouraged people to get the vaccine. Most important on a personal level, you can refuse to take the vaccine.
But that’s not where it ended. And here’s where it gets frightening and dangerous and unacceptable.
From comical to unforgivable
On Father's Day Sunday, as Hotez and his wife were returning to their Houston home from a visit to a local bakery, two men were waiting for him with a cellphone to capture their confrontation with Hotez. They demanded to know why won’t you debate RFK Jr.? What about “vaccine injuries on children?”
Hotez, shaken, told the men that they were harassing him. He shut and locked the door. He fired off this tweet.
Ugh I just was stalked in front of my home by a couple of antivaxers taunting me to debate RFKJr. Of course I was looking my Sunday best in our brutal heat wave. What is it with people? Well at least Houstonian’s now know I support the team…#GoTexans pic.twitter.com/d0NIgNElKN
— Prof Peter Hotez MD PhD (@PeterHotez) June 18, 2023
He told the Washington Post, “He shoved a cellphone camera in my face and asked if I would debate RFK on Rogan. They were clearly lying in wait. It’s very sad. All we were trying to do is get a cake for Father’s Day.
“These kinds of people usually don’t come to my home,” he added. “You always worry if they are carrying a weapon. I wasn’t going to hang around to find out.”
The man with the camera phone posted a video of the confrontation on social media.
On Wednesday, June 21, former Fox News host, now Twitter personality Tucker Carlson entered the fray, saying that because Hotez refused to accept Rogan’s invitation, RFK Jr. was winning the “debate” against Hotez.
Here’s where it gets scary. In response to Carlson’s segment, a follower posted this comment which he removed — but not before I captured a photo of it.
“Hotez lived down the street from me. If anyone wants to see me go live when I run across him and dot him in the eye let me know?” is a physical threat, says Ken Hoffman.Twitter screen capture via Ken Hoffman
That is a physical threat and should be something for police to investigate. “Dot an eye” is lingo for striking someone in the face causing a black eye.
Charismatic politicians and entertainers need to be cautious, not about their freedom to say what they feel to be the truth, but careful not to incite their followers to do anything outside acceptable boundaries.
So far, Rogan, RFK Jr. and Carlson have not commented about the men waiting for Hotez at his home or the threat to attack Hotez physically. They need to condemn these actions.
This isn’t Howard Stern of the ‘80s and ‘90s dispatching Stuttering John or Baba Booey to ask embarrassing questions of celebrities at public events.
Joe Rogan, like Stern back then, is an entertainer, and a richly paid and effective one. You can enjoy his podcast, buy tickets to his standup shows, buy the products he endorses.
Whatever your view of Covid vaccines and mandates, or your viewing and listening habits, Hotez should not fear for his or his family’s safety.
The file on Dr. Hotez
In case you’re not familiar with Hotez: He received Bachelor of Arts in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University, a Doctor of Philosophy from Rockefeller University, and a Doctor of Medicine from Weill Cornell Medical College. He is a professor at Baylor College of Medicine. He is co-director at Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.
He is a Fellow in Disease and Poverty at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. He is Senior Fellow at the Hagler Institute for Advanced Study & Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at Texas A&M University. There is no more room on his walls for diplomas and honors.
In 2021, he and his work and research partner Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi deployed what's called “The World’s COVID-19 Vaccine,” as this publication reported.
That work, as we also reported, led to Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2022. My editor Steven Devadanam named Hotez one to his 5 most talked about Houstonians for 2021 list — something Hotez somehow seemed to find surprising.
Seriously? with @Simone_Biles @theestallion @AaronClayBlue @SylvesterTurner so kind, many thanks @culturemap https://t.co/iZxDjAp5DB
— Prof Peter Hotez MD PhD (@PeterHotez) January 4, 2022
And why not? This is a man who has devoted his life to curing sick people. He is the embodiment of the Texas Medical Center spirit, the largest and finest group of medical facilities in the world.
If you don’t like Hotez professionally — or even personally — stamp your feet and speak out against vaccines.
But, if you really believe podcasters, Twitter hosts, and RFK Jr. over scientists and doctors, please: Do not go see Hotez if you’re sick.
Contact Ken Hoffman at email@example.com.