Earlier this week, Alma reported on Jewish comedian Jon Stewart’s take on the antisemitic portrayal of goblins in “Harry Potter” from a 2021 episode of his podcast, after a tweet featuring a clip from the podcast started making the rounds. Shortly after, the internet blew up.
The story was subsequently reported by outlets like the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Variety, Newsweek and many more. The phrase “Jon Stewart” began trending on Twitter. The debate over the antisemitic nature of the Gringotts goblins picked up all over social media.
Now, Jon Stewart has delivered an official response:
Newsweek et al, may eat my ass. pic.twitter.com/eRoYYeNRi1
— Jon Stewart (@jonstewart) January 5, 2022
In a clip Stewart posted to his Twitter account, he says, “There’s no reasonable person who could’ve watched [the clip] and not seen it as a lighthearted conversation amongst colleagues and chums, having a [laugh], enjoying themselves, about Harry Potter and my experience watching it for the first time in the 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 movie-making, right?”
Stewart also clarifies, “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.”
While I agree with what Stewart went on to say about the harm of media outlets peddling clickbait, I’m not actually sure that’s what happened here. To be clear, I don’t believe Jon Stewart said that J.K. Rowling or “Harry Potter” are antisemitic in his original comments. However, I think it is reductive of him to write off the original podcast clip as entirely a jokey riff. Yes, jokes were made, but in my opinion, he was accurately identifying the “Harry Potter” goblins as an antisemitic oversight, a trope about Jews so baked into society that J.K. Rowling included it in her novels, and was speaking to his authentic experience as a Jew — something that many Jews have also picked up on over the years.
Clarifying his comments in this way, while I understand why he did so, undermines that original, very good point.