Last month Jon Stewart made the outrageous accusation that J.K. Rowling had been promoting anti-Semitism in the Harry Potter series, and the video recently resurfaced, to the comedian’s dismay, causing him to go into full damage control mode.
As per his own comments regarding this particular topic, the actor-comedian stated that he believed the goblins that ran Gringotts Bank in Harry Potter were based on racist caricatures of Jews from the anti-Semitic text The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
On Wednesday, however, in a video shared by the comedian on social media, Stewart now claims that he was only having a “light-hearted conversation amongst colleagues and chums,” and that he doesn’t believe the Harry Potter creator is anti-Semitic.
“If you remember, like, a month ago I recorded one of the podcasts with Henrik and Jay, and we were bulls—tting all kinds of stuff. We started talking about Bar Mitzvah, and then Jay said something like, ‘What chapter of Harry Potter is that?’ and we went off on a Harry Potter thing,” recalled the actor-comedian.
Newsweek et al, may eat my ass. pic.twitter.com/eRoYYeNRi1
— Jon Stewart (@jonstewart) January 5, 2022
He elaborated, “There is no reasonable person that could’ve watched it and not seen it as a light-hearted conversation amongst colleagues and chums having a laugh, enjoying ourselves about Harry Potter and my experience watching it for the first time in a theatre, as a Jewish guy, and how some tropes are so embedded in society that they’re basically invisible… even in a considered process like movie-making.”
Jon Stewart went on to explain that the podcast was recorded a month ago, and when he saw that the topic was trending on Twitter, the comedian proceeded to single out Newsweek for implying that he accused J.K. Rowling of being an anti-Semite.
“This morning I wake up. It’s trending on Twitter,” Stewart continued. “And here’s the headline from Newsweek: ‘Jon Stewart Accuses J.K. Rowling of Antisemitism.'”
Stewart then clarifies that he never intended to suggest the Harry Potter creator was anti-Semitic, nor does he believe the films are anti-Semitic, adding that he’s actually a big fan of the series.
“So let me just say this. Super clearly, as clearly as I can. Hello, my name is Jon Stewart. I do not think J.K. Rowling is anti-Semitic. I did not accuse her of being anti-Semitic. I do not think that the Harry Potter movies are anti-Semitic,” Stewart reassured.
He added, “I really love the Harry Potter movies. Probably too much for a gentleman of my considerable age. So, I would just like to say that none of that is true, and not a reasonable person could not have looked at that conversation and not found it light-hearted.”
Unwilling to let Newsweek go unscathed for implying he had accused Rowling of anti-Semitism, the actor-comedian fired back.
“So let me say this, instead, to Newsweek: Your business model is f—king arson, and not the good kind of arson where they light stuff and control it to prevent forest fires in the future, the kind of arson where you’re on the mountain and you’ve got f—king five minutes and you don’t know where the dogs are,” declared the disgruntled comedian.
He continued, “That’s your business model, and now all the s—theads pile into this ridiculously out of context nonsense that you put out there, and let me tell you, Newsweek, you used to mean something. You were my go-to at the airport when the kiosk was out of Time Magazine. BOOM! Roasted.”
Stewart then reiterated that he didn’t accuse J.K. Rowling of anti-Semitism, that she doesn’t need to answer to the comments he made regarding the Gringotts Bank goblins, and that he doesn’t want the Harry Potter movies being censored in any way.
The comedian’s “light-hearted conversation amongst colleagues” heavily implied that J.K. Rowling had drawn inspiration for the goblins from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
He stated, “Let me show you this. It’s from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I just want to show a caricature, and [people] are like, ‘Oh, look at that. That’s from Harry Potter, and you’re like ‘No. That’s a caricature of a Jew from an anti-Semitic piece of literature.’”
Stewart then mockingly added, “J.K. Rowling was like, ‘Can we get these guys to run our bank?’ And you’re like, ‘This is…it’s a wizarding world. It’s a world where it’s like. The train station has a half thing and no one can see it. And we can ride dragons and you’ve got a pet owl. Who should run the bank? Jews.”
Stewart’s YouTube video of the original discussion also appeared to feature a thumbnail that read “The Antisemitism of Harry Potter.”
The video has since been taken down from YouTube, but Human Events Senior Editor Jack Posobiec questioned on Twitter, “Did Jon Stewart change the thumbnail on his Harry Potter video after it went viral?”
He then shared a screenshot of the original thumbnail alongside an update one that read “‘Antisemitic’ Tropes”
Posobiec would also claim that Stewart’s new video addressing his accusations against Rowling is damage control.
He tweeted, “This is damage control mode. Watch his YouTube video that they just changed the title of to try to walk it all back. Classic PR stuff.”
That’s definitely what it looks like as Stewart found himself opposed by numerous institutions.
As soon as Jon Stewart and J.K. Rowling began trending on Twitter, the British non-governmental organisation, Campaign Against Antisemitism, issued a statement throwing their full support behind J.K. Rowling.
“The portrayal of the goblins in the Harry Potter series is of a piece with their portrayal in Western literature as a whole,” prefaces the statement, explaining, “It is the product of centuries of association of Jews with grotesque and malevolent creatures in folklore, as well as money and finance.”
It further elaborates, “The mythological associations have become so ingrained in the Western mind that their provenance no longer registers with creators or consumers,” adding that, “Those who continue to use such representations are often not thinking of Jews at all, but simply of how readers or viewers will imagine goblins to look, which is a testament more to centuries of Christendom’s antisemitism than it is to malice by contemporary artists.”
“So it is with JK Rowling, who has proven herself over recent years to be a tireless defender of the Jewish community in its fight against antisemitism, for which we are immensely grateful,” the organisation’s statement concluded.
Daily Mail reports that Jewish charities have also expressed their support for J.K. Rowling, in the wake of the controversy sparked by Jon Stewart’s accusations made against the Harry Potter author, as well as other artists.
“JK Rowling has been very supportive of the Jewish community in recent years and tweeted repeatedly against antisemitism, so it is hard to imagine that she used anti-Semitic caricatures in her books. Sometimes a goblin is just a goblin,” said Dave Rich, director of policy at Jewish charity Community Security Trust.
Author and literature expert Nicholas Jubber told the outlet, “Rowling appears to have followed traditions in British fantasy literature. The old German word, ‘kobold’, gave us the word ‘cobalt’, signalling the association of these creatures with mining for precious ores. So it makes sense that goblins would be linked with vaults and underground storage.”
Jewish comedian David Baddiel stated, “The goblins in Harry Potter need to be seen not in a simplistic #teamRowling vs #antiteamRowling way but in a many-centuries long, deeply subconsciously embedded cultural context.”
What do you make of Jon Stewart claiming that he never accused J.K. Rowling of promoting anti-Semitism in Harry Potter? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section down below or on social media.