WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders’ decision to highlight an unofficial endorsement from Joe Rogan drew criticism on Friday due to the comedian’s brand of humor that some see as dismissive of issues like equal pay and transgender rights.
The online flap comes as Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, has been trying to move past a weeks-long controversy over whether he told rival Elizabeth Warren, a friend and progressive ally, in a 2018 meeting that a woman could not beat Republican President Donald Trump, a charge he has denied.
Sanders, who is leading some opinion polls in the important early-voting state of Iowa, tweeted a video clip of Rogan on Thursday saying he would “probably vote for Bernie. He’s been insanely consistent his entire life.”
“Look, you could dig up dirt on every single human being that’s ever existed if you catch them in their worst moment and you magnify those moments,” Rogan continued in explaining his support.
Sanders has been criticized in the past for failing to denounce a following of “Bernie Bros,” men who levy gender-based attacks at women political rivals on social media.
Sanders spokeswoman Briahna Joy Gray said that building a coalition to beat Trump requires “sharing a big tent” that includes “those who do not share every one of our beliefs, while always making clear that we will never compromise our values.”
Rogan’s podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” is downloaded millions of times each month. In the show, which is ideologically inconsistent and often veers into territory that is deemed not politically correct, Rogan has interviewed politicians, including Sanders and fellow 2020 rivals Andrew Yang and congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.
Rogan has also been accused of criticizing transgender individuals, has said divorce laws are anti-feminist and biased against men, and has argued that a gender-based pay gap does not exist or companies would hire all women to save money.
“Men don’t make more money because they do the same job and make more money at that job than the woman does; they do different jobs,” Rogan said in a 2018 podcast episode.
While some studies showing a gender pay gap compare the median annual pay of all women working full-time to the median annual pay of all men working full-time, others that compare pay within occupations and industries also show gender-based compensation differences.
“Deeply disappointing to see you celebrate this,” Democratic consultant Evan Sutton responded to Sanders on Twitter.
Reporting by Amanda Becker; editing by Ginger Gibson and Nick Macfie