Jon Stewart backtracks his criticism of J.K. Rowling and ‘Harry Potter’ as anti-Semitic

jon stewart jk rowling
The Problem with Jon Stewart/Twitter

Jon Stewart inadvertently set the internet ablaze this week after remarks he made about Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling on a recent episode of his podcast, The Problem With Jon Stewart, prompted a flurry of headlines. But now he’s clapping back at media outlets — such as Newsweek, in particular — claiming the magazine took his words out of context.

In the two-minute-long clip that went viral, Stewart took umbrage with the suspiciously large-nosed goblins who happen to run the banks in the Harry Potter universe. He also pointed out that the creatures bear more than a striking resemblance to caricatures found in the anti-Semitic 1903 text, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which outlines a supposed Jewish plan for global domination.

“Let me show you this, from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, I just want to show you a caricature,” Stewart said, recalling conversations over the years. “And they’re like, ‘No, that’s 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, ‘Get we get these guys to run our bank?'”

Of course, he has a point, and he’s not even the first comedian to notice the bizarre Jew-goblins, as Pete Davidson made similar comments during an Oct. 2020 Saturday Night Live Weekend Update segment.

Yet, Stewart was unequivocally unamused with the attention his remarks generated. As such, on Wednesday afternoon Stewart tweeted a rebuttal to the media outlets suggesting that he explicitly called Rowling anti-Semitic. “Newsweek et al. may eat my ass,” Stewart diplomatically wrote.

In the accompanying clip, Stewart addressed the supposedly manufactured controversy at the top of the latest episode of his podcast.

“So, if you remember, like, a month ago, I recorded one of the podcasts with Henrik (Blix) and Jay (Jurden), right?” Stewart recalled. “And we were bullshitting about all kinds of stuff, and we started talking about bat mitzvahs, and then Jay said something like, he did a funny riff on it, like ‘What chapter of Harry Potter was that?'”

Stewart went on to say that “no reasonable person” could have watched the clip and seen it as anything other than a “lighthearted conversation” amongst friends enjoying themselves. He explained that the conversation encompassed his personal experience as “a Jewish guy” watching the film in the theater and how “some tropes are so embedded in society that they’re basically invisible, even in a considered process like movie making.”

“This morning I wake up, it’s trending on Twitter, and here’s the headline from Newsweek: ‘Jon Stewart accuses J.K. Rowling of anti-Semitism,'” he continued, before launching into a fiery diatribe aimed at the publication — no pun intended.

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. 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 lighthearted.

Let me say this instead to Newsweek: ‘Your business model is fucking arson. And not the good kind! 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 five fucking minutes and you don’t know where the dogs are. Like, that’s your business model. And now all the shitheads pile into this ridiculously out-of-context nonsense that you put out there.

And let me tell you something Newsweek, you used to mean something, you were my go-to at the airport when the kiosk was out of Time magazine. Boom, roasted!

Now, we love a good Jon Stewart rant as much as the next person, but the logic presented here feels a bit disingenuous here. Maybe Stewart doesn’t want to be the face of canceling J.K. Rowling, but let’s face it — J.K. Rowling doesn’t need much help in that department, considering all of the problematic anti-trans rhetoric she’s volunteered entirely of her own volition over the years. Not to mention that — while the headline may have been somewhat sensational — uh, Newsweek wasn’t exactly wrong.

So, all things considered, some people wondered if this is really the look Stewart wants to be going for here.

“Serious question: Have you gone back and watched exactly what you said?” tweeted equality consultant Josh Levs. “Of course, the news gets plenty of things wrong, but see what you said, particularly at time code 2:40. Even lighthearted, it’s a description of her using anti-semitic imagery.”

Political commentator Paul Waugh likewise tweeted that he struggled to see why Stewart is so upset at Newsweek quoting what he actually said.

Human Events editor Jack Posobiec pointed out that the graphics on Stewart’s own video even seemed to confirm what Newsweek published.

Vox editor Meredith Haggerty pointed out that maybe this is why Stewart gets upset that people don’t take him seriously.

Another user jokingly used one of Stewart’s own GIFs against him.

Well, when all is said and done, it’s Stewart’s hill, and we guess he can die on it all he wants. But considering that we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic despite the wide availability of vaccines, United States democracy is hanging by a precipice, the world is literally burning, and all the Democrats seem to be successful at is infighting — perhaps his vitriol could be best directed elsewhere.