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September 18, 2020

Joe Rogan apologizes for 'irresponsible' claim about West Coast wildfires

He said on his podcast 'left-wing' extremists were arrested for arson, which is false. Officials debunked rumors about demonstrators in Oregon last week

Podcaster Joe Rogan publicly apologized on Friday for spreading misinformation that wildfires in Oregon may have been deliberately started by "left-wing people," a rumor that had already been debunked by law enforcement agencies. 

As Oregon and other West Coast states deal with dangerous and destructive wildfires, unfounded rumors emerged this week that the fires may have been started by activists. While the Portland Police Bureau warned last week of the dangers of starting fires during demonstrations, there has been no evidence of any deliberate attempts to do so. 

Both the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Portland FBI shot down the suggestion last week. 

Several fires in the state are under investigation, but there have been no law enforcement links to Black Lives Matter or antifa, according to the New York Times.

RELATED: Philly Twitter users share images of hazy skies caused by smoke from West Coast wildfires

Despite officials saying the rumor the wildfires had been started by extremists was false – and despite Facebook flagging the claim and promising to remove it from it's platform, though well after it had been circulated by right-wing QAnon conspiracy theorists – Joe Rogan insinuated on his podcast Thursday that demonstrators had been arrested for starting fires.

Media Matters researcher Alex Paterson tweeted a clip of the false statements on Thursday afternoon, prompting criticism of Rogan. 

"They've arrested people for lighting forest fires up there," Rogan said during a conversation about Portland with author Douglas Murray. "They've arrested left-wing people for lighting these forest fires, air-quote 'activists.' This is also something that's not being widely reported, you know, that people have actually been arrested for lighting fires up there."

On Friday afternoon, Rogan took responsibility for spreading false news, calling his comments "irresponsible." 

Rogan's podcast, "The Joe Rogan Experience," attracts in the range of 200 million listeners. 

As Uproxx reported this week, the incident comes as President Donald Trump expressed support for the idea of a four-hour debate with Joe Biden moderated by Rogan, who had previously endorsed Bernie Sanders but says he will now vote for Trump. 

At least 10 people have died and 22 were reported missing in Oregon's wildfires earlier this week. 

Across the West Coast, the National Interagency Fire Center said this week at least 87 wildfires are burning and more than 4.7 million acres have been torched.