Jon Stewart Calls Out J.K. Rowling’s Anti-Semitic Goblins in ‘Harry Potter’ Franchise

Stewart was in disbelief the first time he saw the "Harry Potter" goblins on screen: "Who should run the bank? Jews!"

HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE, Verne Troyer, Daniel Radcliffe (right), 2001
©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

A December 2021 episode of Jon Stewart’s “The Problem with Jon Stewart” podcast is making headlines for the host’s takedown of J.K. Rowling’s depiction of goblins in the author’s “Harry Potter” franchise. In the “Harry Potter” universe, goblins work at and run the Gringotts Bank. Stewart drew a comparison between the goblins depicted on screen in the “Harry Potter” films and the anti-Semitic illustrations featured in the 1903 book “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

“Here’s how you know Jews are still where they are,” Stewart said on the podcast episode. “Talking to people, here’s what I say: Have you ever seen a ‘Harry Potter’ movie? Have you ever seen the scenes in Gringotts Bank? Do you know what those folks who run the bank are? Jews! And they’re like, ‘Oh, [that illustration is] 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, ‘Can we get these guys to run our bank?’ It’s a wizarding world…we can ride dragons, you can have a pet owl… but who should run the bank? Jews. But what if the teeth were sharper?”

“It was one of those things where I saw it on the screen and I was expecting the crowd to be like, ‘Holy shit, [Rowling] did not, in a wizarding world, just throw Jews in there to run the fucking underground bank,” Stewart added. “And everybody was just like, ‘Wizards.’ It was so weird.”

Charity group Campaign Against Antisemitism issued its own statement on the matter, reminding “Harry Potters” that Rowling has been “a tireless defender of the Jewish community” over the years. As for the goblins, the group said the look of the creatures “is of a piece with their portrayal in Western literature as a whole.”

Rowling has been at the center of controversy for the past two years due to her anti-transgender comments. The author remains involved in Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter” spinoff franchise “Fantastic Beasts,” the third installment of which (“The Secrets of Dumbledore”) is set for a U.S. theatrical release on April 15. Rowling’s anti-trans views have been condemned by “Harry Potter” actors such as Daniel Radcliffe, with Warner Bros. issuing its own statement on the matter in June 2020.

“Warner Bros.’ position on inclusiveness is well established, and fostering a diverse and inclusive culture has never been more important to our company and to our audiences around the world,” the studio said at the time. “We deeply value the work of our storytellers who give so much of themselves in sharing their creations with us all. We recognize our responsibility to foster empathy and advocate understanding of all communities and all people, particularly those we work with and those we reach through our content.”

Listen to Jon Stewart’s full comments on J.K. Rowling in the video below.