In the three months since it first premiered on Apple TV+, The Problem With Jon Stewart has failed to make anywhere near the cultural impact that the host made on a near-nightly basis as host of The Daily Show. The one exception appears to be a stray comment Stewart made about J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series during an episode of the podcast that accompanies the show.
Still, it took weeks for those comments—describing the goblin bankers from the books and films as anti-Semitic caricatures—to reach the mainstream, as Stewart discovered when he found out why his name was trending on Twitter Wednesday morning.
“I have to address this. This is bonkers, guys,” Stewart said in a video excerpt from his latest podcast episode, describing the original exchange as an obviously “light-hearted” conversation about the “tropes” that he noticed when he first saw the films. He singled out the headline from Newsweek that read, “Jon Stewart Accuses J.K. Rowling of Antisemitism in ‘Harry Potter,’” though many others like it proliferated across the internet.
Speaking directly into the camera, Stewart said, “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.”
Instead, he turned his ire to Newsweek, and by extension the rest of the online media ecosystem. “Your business model is fucking arson!” he exclaimed. “And now all the shitheads pile into this ridiculously out-of-context nonsense that you put out there.”
“So again, I cannot stress this enough: I am not accusing J.K. Rowling of being anti-Semitic,” he added. “She need not answer to any of it. I don’t want the Harry Potter movies censored in any way. It was a lighthearted conversation. Get a fucking grip!”
While Stewart spent much of his Daily Show era railing against cable news, and Fox in particular, he has in recent years expressed a newfound outrage over internet media, especially when it is covering him.
During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter around the release of his new show, Stewart grew especially defensive when the topic of diversity in his writers’ room came up.
“It’s all controversies that don’t actually exist,” he said at the time, “but we’re going to pretend like we’re doing an interview about the reality of something when, really, we’re just going to deal with the reality created by a pretty narrow perspective.”
He compared it to the time Matt Lauer—of all people—ended an interview about an autism fundraiser by saying, “Before you go, I have to ask you about Louis C.K.”
“Do you?” Stewart remembered thinking. “Why?”
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