The fantastical, hook-nosed beings who control Gringotts Wizarding Bank in the movie adaptations of author J.K. Rowling’s book series perpetuate negative stereotypes of Jews, the comedian said in a December episode of “The Problem With Jon Stewart” podcast that went viral on Twitter on Tuesday.
Stewart, who is Jewish, likened the creatures to “a caricature of a Jew” from the early-20th century antisemitic text, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
“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 can have a pet owl … and who should run the bank? Jews,” said Stewart, former host of “The Daily Show.”
“It was one of those things where I saw it on the screen, and I was expecting the crowd to be like ’Holy shit, she did not, in a wizarding world, just throw Jews in there to run the fucking underground bank. And everybody was just like, ‘Wizards.’ It was so weird,” he added. “Harry Potter and the Reichstag Fire.”
Watch Stewart’s comments here:
On Wednesday, after his monthold comments went viral, Stewart criticized media outlets that suggested he’d accused Rowling of antisemitism.
“There is no reasonable person that could have watched it and not seen it as a lighthearted conversation amongst colleagues and chums, having a laugh, enjoying ourselves, about ‘Harry Potter’ and my experience watching it for the first time in a theater as a Jewish guy and how some tropes are so embedded in society that they are basically invisible, even in a considered process like movie-making,” he said in a video posted on Twitter.
“I do not think J.K. Rowling is antisemitic. I did not accuse her of being antisemitic,” the comedian continued. “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.”
Rowling “need not answer to any of it,” he added. “I don’t want the ‘Harry Potter’ movies censored in any way.”
Watch the video here:
Accusations of antisemitism have been leveled at the “Harry Potter” franchise before, though. “Saturday Night Live” cast member Pete Davidson made a similar point to Stewart in 2020 after Rowling drew outrage with anti-trans comments.
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 said. “Little, giant-nosed Jew goblins. And I can say that because as you can see, I’m half Goblin.”
Watch the video here:
Rowling has not responded to Stewart’s comments. Some fans defended her, suggesting she would have had little input on how the goblins appeared in the movie. Rowling’s agent, Neil Blair, called the claim “total and utter bs.”
This article has been updated to include Stewart’s latest comments.