Jon Stewart just gave social media a shake of the Time-Turner, calling out news coverage of his recent “Harry Potter” jokes about goblins in the film franchise as “ridiculously out-of-context nonsense.”
The former “Daily Show” host took to Twitter — and his podcast — Wednesday to shut down rampant reports about his December remarks on the financially savvy goblins of “Harry Potter” and J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World.
“We went off on a ‘Harry Potter’ thing,” Stewart explained in a new episode of his “The Problem With Jon Stewart” podcast. “There is no reasonable person that could have watched it and not seen it as a light-hearted conversation amongst colleagues and chums … enjoying ourselves about ‘Harry Potter’ and my experience watching for the first time in a theater as a Jewish guy and how some tropes are so embedded in society that they’re basically invisible even in a considered process like moviemaking.
“We did that a month ago — so, like, two COVID mutations ago. This morning I wake up [and] it’s trending on Twitter,” he said, singling out Newsweek, in particular, for running a headline in which he accused Rowling of antisemitism.
“Let me just ay this super clearly as clearly as I can,” he continued. “Hello, my name is Jon Stewart. I do not think J.K. Rowling is antisemitic. I did not accuse her of being antisemitic. I do not think that the ‘Harry Potter’ movies are antisemitic. 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 have found it light-hearted.”
Stewart said the reaction to his take was “bonkers,” and the social-media pile-on was “ridiculously out-of-context nonsense.”
“I cannot stress this enough. I’m not accusing J.K. Rowling of being anti-semitic. She need not answer to any of it. I do not want the ‘Harry Potter’ movies censored in any way. It was a light-hearted conversation. Get a f— grip.”
During a mid-December episode of “The Problem With Jon Stewart,” which went viral on social media this week, Stewart riffed and appeared to call out the embattled billionaire author for perpetuating negative stereotypes about Jewish people.
Magical goblins — introduced early in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” book as keen with finances, short and clever, and some with very long fingers and feet — controlled the centuries-old wizarding bank Gringotts and were adept metalsmiths who wrought silver items and formidable weapons.
“Here’s how you know like Jews are still where they are… You ever seen the scenes in Gringotts Bank? Do you know what those folks that run the banks are?” Stewart quipped at the time. “Jews!”
In Warner Bros.’s 2001 movie adaptation directed by Chris Columbus, the Gringotts goblins appear hook-nosed and with pointy ears — a “caricature” Stewart contended was drawn from “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” an antisemitic, early-20th century text.
“J.K. Rowling was like, ‘Can we get these guys to run our bank?’ It’s a wizarding world where … we can ride dragons, you’ve got a pet owl … and who should run the bank? Jews,” Stewart, who is Jewish, joked with his co-hosts.
“It was one of those things where I saw it on the screen, and I was expecting the crowd to be like ‘Holy s—, she did not, in a wizarding world, just throw Jews in there to run the f— underground bank.’ And everybody was just like, ‘Wizards’ [shrug]. It was so weird,” he added. “Even Dobby [the house elf] was like that’s f— up. Those are Jews.”
“‘Harry Potter and the Reichstag Fire,’” he riffed.
It’s unclear how much input Rowling provided on the goblins’ depiction in the early films. The British author didn’t serve as a producer on the blockbuster franchise until its seventh and eighth “Deathly Hallows” installments and has only been involved in screenwriting the “Harry Potter” prequel “Fantastic Beasts” films.
The author has been repeatedly criticized for her transphobic comments (and been controversially defended by comedian Dave Chappelle). She has not yet responded to Stewart’s December remarks or Wednesday clarification; however, some fans defended her on social media, as did her agent, Neil Blair, who called on Stewart to apologize.
“Total and utter bs,” Blair tweeted Tuesday in response to a story about Stewart. “@jk_rowling hasn’t an antisemitic bone in her body. Quite the opposite IN FACT (a concept out of fashion these days). @JonStewart should apologise for his ignorant, false and hurtful smear. Sometimes I feel that the whole world has gone mad.”
Total and utter bs. @jk_rowling hasn’t an antisemitic bone in her body. Quite the opposite IN FACT (a concept out of fashion these days). @JonStewart should apologise for his ignorant, false and hurtful smear. Sometimes I feel that the whole world has gone mad.. https://t.co/e9HP46uVIW
— Neil Blair (@NeilBlairTBP) January 4, 2022
Despite Stewart walking back his jokes, the films’ portrayal of goblins has been a point of controversy for years. When Rowling first sparked a backlash over her views on gender, “Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson called out the author on live television in an October 2020 episode.
“I didn’t know J.K. Rowling was gonna go all Mel Gibson on us,” he quipped during a “Weekend Update” segment. “I long for a few years ago when the worst thing she ever did were those ‘Fantastic Beasts’ movies, you know? No discrimination there, those films harmed us all equally. I mean what’s wrong with her? She creates a seven-book fantasy series about all kinds of mythical creatures living in harmony with wizards and elves and the one thing she can’t wrap her head around is Laverne Cox? She’s a national treasure!”
And then his riff segued when he said he wasn’t surprised by Rowling’s stance.
“The woods in ‘Harry Potter’ are controlled by centaurs, the schools are run by wizards and ghosts. But who controls the banks? Jews, obviously,” Davidson quipped. “Little, giant-nosed Jew goblins. And I can say that because as you can see, I’m half goblin.”