Jon Stewart Clarifies His ‘Harry Potter’ Criticism: “I Do Not Think J.K. Rowling Is Anti-Semitic”

Jon Stewart Clarifies His ‘Harry Potter’ Criticism: “I Do Not Think J.K. Rowling Is Anti-Semitic”

Stewart previously talked about antisemitic caricatures used as goblin bankers in the franchise.

Jon Stewart is responding to a month-old video clip from a podcast recording that has since gone viral. In the December 2021 episode of Jon Stewart’s The Problem with Jon Stewart podcast, Stewart and guests, Jay Jurden and Henrik Blix, talk about how the Harry Potter film franchise's portrayal of goblins who work at Gringotts Bank reflected old anti-Semitic caricatures of Jewish people. Stewart compared the goblins depicted on screen in the films and the anti-Semitic illustrations featured in the 1903 book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.


“Here’s how you know Jews are still where they are,” Stewart said on the podcast episode. “Talking to people, here’s what I say: Have you ever seen a Harry Potter movie? Have you ever seen the scenes in Gringotts Bank? Do you know what those folks who 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.’ J.K. Rowling was like, ‘Can we get these guys to run our bank?’ 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?” He continued, “It was one of those things where I saw it on the screen and I was expecting the crowd to be like, ‘Holy shit, [Rowling] did not, in a wizarding world, just throw Jews in there to run the fucking underground bank.'” Stewart added, “And everybody was just like, ‘Wizards.’ It was so weird.”


The former Daily Show host took to social media and has since clarified his statements. He pointed out that the discussion on Harry Potter goblins was “a lighthearted conversation amongst colleagues and chums” about what it was like first watching the HP movies as a Jewish man. Stewart brought up the look of the goblins to talk about “how some tropes are so embedded in society that they’re basically invisible, even in a considered process like moviemaking.” 


In his statement, he shared, “I do not think J.K. Rowling is anti-Semitic. I did not accuse her of being anti-Semitic. I do not think the Harry Potter movies are anti-Semitic. I really love the Harry Potter movies, probably too much for a gentleman of my considerable age … I cannot stress this enough. I am not accusing J.K. Rowling of being anti-Semitic. She need not answer to any of it. I don’t want the Harry Potter movies censored in any way. It was a lighthearted conversation. Get a f*cking grip!”


Charity group, Campaign Against Antisemitism, issued its own statement on the matter, reminding people that Rowling has been “a tireless defender of the Jewish community” over the years. As for the goblins, the group said the look of the creatures “is of a piece with their portrayal in Western literature as a whole.”


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