Jon Stewart has said his recent comments about claims of anti-Semitic imagery in the Harry Potter films were “lighthearted”.
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Speaking on his podcast The Problem With Jon Stewart (December 16), the US comedian, who is Jewish, said the goblins that run Gringotts bank are based on caricatures of Jews from anti-semitic text The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion.
After his comments attracted attention, Stewart has since clarified his remarks in a video on Twitter.
“There is no reasonable person that could have watched it and not seen it as a lighthearted conversation amongst colleagues and chums,” Stewart said.
Newsweek et al, may eat my ass. pic.twitter.com/eRoYYeNRi1
— Jon Stewart (@jonstewart) January 5, 2022
“Having a laugh, enjoying ourselves about Harry Potter and my experience watching for the first time in the theatre as a Jewish guy and how some tropes are so embedded in a society that they’re basically invisible even in a considered process like movie-making.”
After noting the headlines which followed his comments, Stewart added: “Let me just say this super clearly, as clearly as I can. Hello, my name is Jon Stewart. I do not think JK Rowling is 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 JK 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.”
Speaking on his podcast about the goblins in Harry Potter, Stewart said: “Here’s how you know Jews are still where they are. “Talking to people, what I say is, ‘Have you ever seen a Harry Potter movie? Have you ever seen the scenes in Gringotts bank? Do you know what those folk that run the bank are? Jews!’
“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 anti-semitic piece of literature.’ JK Rowling was like, ‘Can we get these guys to run our bank?’”
While lighthearted, his comments caused fellow comedians like Sarah Silverman to reiterate the stance on Twitter. “I’ve actually never seen Harry Potter and after watching the below and then seeing the clip in the thread I am just kind of stunned,” Silverman wrote.
I’ve actually never seen Harry Potter and after watching the below and then seeing the clip in the thread I am just kind of stunned. You know when you giggle but it’s really more fear than joy? https://t.co/regNsfbfjX
— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) January 4, 2022
“You know when you giggle but it’s really more fear than joy?”
Back in 2020, Pete Davidson similarly joked about the “little giant-nosed Jew goblins” in the Harry Potter franchise on Saturday Night Live. “I can say that, because as you can see I’m half-goblin,” Davidson said.
JK Rowling has been accused of being transphobic in recent years, which is believed to have led to the author’s absence in the Harry Potter 20th anniversary special Return To Hogwarts.
The controversy first began in 2020, when the author was criticised for a series of “anti-trans” tweets after she called out an article’s use of the phrase “people who menstruate”.
Many actors from the franchise have spoken out against the author, including Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson.