By Ramishah Maruf, CNN
New York (CNN) — A prominent vaccine scientist said he was accosted outside of his home after a Twitter exchange with podcaster Joe Rogan, who challenged him to debate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. over the weekend.
“I just was stalked in front of my home by a couple of antivaxers taunting me to debate RFKJr.,” Houston-based scientist Peter Hotez tweeted Sunday.
CNN reached out to Hotez seeking more details on the incident, but he was not available for comment.
Hotez, who regularly appears on newscasts — including CNN, is the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and a professor of pediatrics and molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine. He has frequently debunked Covid-19 vaccine misinformation on his social media accounts during the pandemic.
The confrontation came after Hotez tweeted Saturday in support of a Vice article that criticized Spotify’s handling of vaccine misinformation on Rogan’s show. “From all the online attacks I’m receiving after this absurd podcast, it’s clear many actually believe this nonsense,” he said.
Rogan then replied, offering to donate $100,000 to a charity of Hotez’s choice if he would debate RFK Jr. on Rogan’s show “with no time limit” in a tweet that has now been viewed over 50 million times.
Hotez replied that Rogan had his contact information and said, “I’m always willing to speak with you.”
But online controversy quickly snowballed.
“He’s afraid of a public debate, because he knows he’s wrong,” Twitter owner Elon Musk tweeted in response to Rogan, who claimed Hotez’s response was a “non answer.”
“I will add $150,000 to @joerogan’s wager so now $250,000 can go to charity and the public can hear an open debate on an important topic,” billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman tweeted.
Hotez contended he would appear on the podcast but would not debate Kennedy, the environmental lawyer and anti-vaccine activist who declared he was running for president in April.
“I offered to go on Joe Rogan but not to turn it into the Jerry Springer show with having RFK Jr. on,” Hotez said on MSNBC Sunday.
Hotez has experienced harassment over vaccines even before the onset of the pandemic, after writing a 2018 book about his daughter called “Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism.”
“You have no morals whatsoever and you know that you are a [f**king] liar. I hope you rot in hell,” one anti-vaxer emailed Hotez.
Investor Mark Cuban defended Hotez, jumping in the Twitter debate. “Trying to bully Dr Hotez is ridiculous,” Cuban tweeted, accusing Musk and Rogan of acting in their own self interest.
CNN has reached out to Kennedy’s campaign team for comment. In a response to Rogan, Kennedy suggested to Hotez that they have a “respectful, congenial, informative debate.”
Last year, artists such as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell asked the streaming music company to pull their music from the platform after Rogan’s frequent false and inaccurate claims about Covid-19 and vaccines on the “Joe Rogan Experience.”
Following the backlash, Spotify added a content advisory to all podcast episodes that include discussions of Covid-19. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek acknowledged the controversy last February, saying the company is “trying to balance creative expression with the safety of our users.”
Spotify declined to comment.
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– CNN’s Frank Pallotta, Elizabeth Cohen and John Bonifield contributed to this report.