A renowned vaccine scientist said he was stalked outside his home by anti-vaxxers on Sunday after Joe Rogan, Elon Musk, and many others challenged him to debate Robert F Kennedy Jr.

Houston-based scientist Peter Hotez, 65, tweeted: “I just was stalked in front of my home by a couple of anti-vaxxers taunting me to debate RFKJr.”

It all started when Mr Hotez tweeted on Saturday in support of an article that criticised Spotify’s handling of vaccine misinformation. The Vice article was titled “Spotify has stopped even sort of trying to stem Joe Rogan’s vaccine misinformation”.

The author of the article wrote: “The conversation was an orgy of unchecked vaccine misinformation, some conspiracy-mongering about 5G technology and wifi, and, of course, Rogan once again praising ivermectin, an ineffective faux Covid treatment.”

Mr Hotez retweeted it and commented: “It’s really true” adding that it was “just awful”. He continued: “And from all the online attacks I’m receiving after this absurd podcast, it’s clear many actually believe this nonsense.”

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The article targeted a recent three-hour-long conversation by podcaster Joe Rogan on Spotify with Robert F Kennedy Jr, the anti-vaxxer himself and a presidential candidate.

After Mr Hotez commented on the article, Joe Rogan responded by saying: “Peter, if you claim what RFKJr is saying is ‘misinformation’ I am offering you $100,000.00 to the charity of your choice if you’re willing to debate him on my show with no time limit.”

Mr Kennedy Jr has been an anti-vaccine advocate who has peddled false claims linking vaccines to autism.

Soon, billionaires claimed they’d give more money, emboldening vaccine sceptics. Elon Musk tweeted that Mr Hotez was “afraid of a public debate because he knows he’s wrong”.

He told the Washington Post that he and his wife were returning with a cake for Father’s Day when two people “accosted me when we were walking into the house”.

“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.”

He added, “The anti-vaccine attacks usually come in waves of aggression, and this one is about as bad as it’s been in the last 20 years.”

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In January last year, a group of more than 270 medical professionals urged Spotify to stop “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance”.

“Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Joe Rogan has repeatedly spread misleading and false claims on his podcast, provoking distrust in science and medicine,” the letter read.

The Independent has reached out to Spotify for comment.


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