January 24, 2020 / 5:39 PM / 24 days ago

Sanders touts controversial comedian's 2020 support, sparking criticism

WASHINGTON, Jan 24 (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, on Thursday tweeted a video clip of Rogan 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.

The comedian’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 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.

The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to a request to comment on Rogan’s support. (Reporting By Amanda Becker; editing by Ginger Gibson and Nick Macfie)

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