Jon Stewart denies accusing Harry Potter author JK Rowling of antisemitism over Gringotts goblins

·2-min read
Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

TV host Jon Stewart has insisted that comments he made about the Harry Potter movies were meant to be "light-hearted" and he was not accusing author JK Rowling of antisemitism.

Speaking on his podcast The Problem with Jon Stewart last month, Stewart had questioned the depiction of the goblins in the wizarding universe's Gringotts Bank created by Rowling.

The presenter, who is Jewish himself, had suggested that the goblins were depicted as Jewish "caricatures", comparing them to an illustration from an antisemitic text published in 1903 called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Related: Why Harry Potter reunion special didn't feature new JK Rowling footage

He said on the podcast: "I just want to show you a caricature. And they're like, 'Oh, look at that, that's from Harry Potter!' And you're like, 'No, that's a caricature of a Jew from an antisemitic piece of literature.'"

He added: "In a world where you can have a pet owl and we can ride dragons, JK Rowling was like, 'Can we get these guys to run our bank?'"

However, on Wednesday (January 5), Stewart posted a video in which he insisted that his comments were part of a "light-hearted conversation" about his personal experience "watching Harry Potter in the theatre for the first time as a Jewish guy".

Related: Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts – how to watch the reunion special

He said in the video: "Let me just say this as clearly as I can, I do not think JK Rowling is antisemitic. I did not accuse her of being antisemitic and I do not think the Harry Potter movies are antisemitic.

"None of that is true and not a reasonable person could have looked at that conversation and not found it light-hearted."

"I cannot stress this enough, I am not accusing JK Rowling of antisemitism and I do not want the movies censored in any way. Get a f**king grip," Stewart concluded.

Photo credit: Walter McBride/WireImage
Photo credit: Walter McBride/WireImage

In 2020, Saturday Night Live! comic Pete Davidson criticised Rowling for the "little giant-nosed Jew goblins" being put in charge of the wizarding bank – a common antisemitic trope – during an SNL episode. He also joked that he is "half-goblin".

This is not the first criticism lobbied at the Harry Potter series, particularly surrounding Rowling's choice of names: Cho Chang for the singular Asian character, Seamus Finnegan for one of the Irish characters, and the slave-derived name Kingsley Shacklebolt for one of the only Black characters in the series.

HBO recently released a reunion show, titled Return to Hogwarts, to celebrate Harry Potter's 20th anniversary, which is available to stream on Sky and Now.

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