Jon Stewart recently went off on the goblins in Harry Potter, saying that J.K. Rowling’s depiction of the goblins, who work at Gringotts Wizarding Bank in the book and movie series, was clearly anti-Semitic.
The comedian spoke about the issue during a December 2021 episode of his The Problem With Jon Stewart podcast, the companion to his Apple TV+ series. “Here’s how you know Jews are still where they are,” Stewart said. “Talking to people, here’s what I say: Have you ever seen a Harry Potter movie? And people are all like, ‘I love the Harry Potter movies.’ Have you ever seen the scenes in Gringotts Bank? And they’re like ‘I love the scenes in Gringotts Bank.’ Do you know what those folks who run the bank are? And they’re like ‘What?’ Jews!”
“Let me show you this from the Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion, I just want to show you a caricature,” he said, referencing the infamous anti-Semitic text from the early 1900s. “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.’”
In the films, the goblins have long, hooked noses, long fingers and feet, and large round heads. Goblins are considered subservient to wizards in the Harry Potter universe, but still maintain some power because they run the banks. They are described by many wizard characters as tricky and untrustworthy.
Stewart continued, “J.K. Rowling was like, ‘Can we get these guys to run our bank?’ It’s a wizarding world… we can ride dragons, you’ve got a pet owl… but who should run the bank? Jews. But what if the teeth were sharper?”
He described the experience of watching the movie, saying, “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.”
Watch the clip from Stewart’s podcast below.
Update, 1/5/22 at 5:06 p.m.: Stewart has now issued a clarification/“invitation for Newsweek to eat his ass” in regards to his comments about Rowling’s work. Specifically, the comedian posted a video to his Twitter feed today in which he bluntly states that “I do not think J.K. Rowling is anti-Semitic. I did not accuse her of being 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.”
Stewart also vented his rage specifically at Newsweek, calling their business model “arson,” and claiming that he was just having a lighthearted conversation about the use of ingrained stereotypes and tropes that appear in Rowling’s work. Said conversation (which Stewart broadcast on the internet with a header image that read “‘ANTI-SEMITIC’ TROPES”) did include moments where both Stewart and fellow podcaster Henrik Blix expressed their shock at seeing the Wizarding World’s take on goblins for the first time (echoing years of critique of how the Gringotts goblins traffic in old, ingrained, and ugly stereotypes of Jewish people). But Stewart has stated as clearly as he can that he doesn’t think either Rowling or the movies based off her works are anti-Semitic, and made it very clear that he doesn’t want anything about the films to be censored or changed.