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The former Daily Show host made headlines this week for a discussion on his podcast about the goblins who run the Gringotts bank in the Harry Potter books and films.
Stewart, who is Jewish, had compared the goblins to the antisemitic illustrations featured in the 1903 book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
“Have you ever seen a Harry Potter movie? Have you ever seen the scenes in Gringotts Bank? Do you know what those folks that run the bank are? Jews!.. And they’re like, ‘Oh, [that illustration is] from Harry Potter!’ And you’re like, ‘No, that’s a caricature of a Jew from an anti-Semitic piece of literature,’” Stewart had said.
“JK Rowling was like, ‘Can we get these guys to run our bank?’ You’re like, ‘It’s a wizarding world… We can ride dragons, you can have a pet owl… but who should run the bank? Jews… but what if the teeth were sharper?”
In a new video shared on Twitter, Stewart expressed his shock over the reaction to his “lighthearted conversation” and said he does not believe Rowling is antisemitic.
“I cannot stress this enough: I am not accusing JK Rowling of being antisemitic,” he said. “She need not answer to any of it. I don’t want the Harry Potter movies censored in any way.”
“I really love the Harry Potter movies,” he insisted.
Newsweek et al, may eat my ass. pic.twitter.com/eRoYYeNRi1
— Jon Stewart (@jonstewart) January 5, 2022
Stewart condemned the media’s reporting on the comments, singling out the Newsweek headline “Jon Stewart Accuses JK Rowling of Antisemitism in Harry Potter".
“And now all the s***heads pile into this ridiculously out of context nonsense that you put out there,” Stewart said. “Get a f***ing grip.”
Before Stewart denied calling Rowling antisemitic, the Campaign Against Antisemitism had come to Rowling’s defence, saying “the portrayal of the goblins in the Harry Potter series is of a piece with their portrayal in Western literature as a whole” and calling the writer a “tireless defender of the Jewish community in its fight against antisemitism”.
The Independent has contacted Rowling’s representatives for comment.
In 2020, Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson brought attention to the goblin characters in Rowling’s books.
He criticised the author for putting “little giant-nosed Jew goblins” in charge of the wizarding bank.
“And I can say that because, as you can see, I’m half-goblin,” the comedian joked.
In 2018, Rowling was dubbed “one of the staunchest allies of the Jews” by the Jewish feminist publication Hey Alma, after the British author began calling antisemitism out online amid rising intolerance in the UK.
Rowling was featured last week in the Harry Potter reunion, Return to Hogwarts, via archive interviews from 2019.