Does The Jon Stewart J.K. Rowling Anti-Semitism Row Prove Apple’s Media Fears?

J.K. Rowling and Jon Stewart

You may have noticed that some Apple TV+ content has caused a bit of stir over the last couple of days. A section of a recent The Problem With Jon Stewart podcast, in which author J.K. Rowling,  Harry Potter, and anti-Semitism were discussed, has caused a huge debate.

Jon Stewart J.K. Rowling Antisemitism Row

First, here’s the original clip, which first came out three weeks ago:

And now here’s Jon Stewart’s response, and the Newsweek article he’s referring to:

Here too, is the take from J.K. Rowling’s, agent Neil Blair, himself a vocal campaigner against anti-Semitism:

I should say at this juncture that I, a British Jew who watched how J.K. Rowling defended our community when many others wouldn’t, personally find the idea she is an anti-Semite absurd. Indeed, in the second clip above Mr. Stewart says he does not think she is either.

Is Apple Comfortable With Controversy?

Whatever ones views, and ignoring Mr. Stewart’s blurring of the Harry Potter books and movies, there is no doubt that the whole escapade has been rather unseemly. It provoked Twitter rows and widespread media coverage. It seems unlikely this is the thing Apple wanted when it moved into media. There were, of course, now disputed rumors that CEO Tim Cook and others previously passed around notes to people working for Apple TV+, including one that said: “don’t be so mean!”

The arrival of a talk show was always going to be a crunch point and a test of Apple’s mettle. I called Apple “brave” when it first revealed a Mr. Stewart-fronted series and said:

It’s going to be slick. It’s probably going to be controversial.

Well, it’s not often a columnist gets to pat themselves on the back, but I think I can say I got that prediction right!

The key point is that whatever you think about the allegations made in the podcast (again, I think they are ridiculous and am pleased the host has clarified his position,) this is the first time Apple’s media offering has really been in the firing line. This kind of thing is though what happens, particularly if you produce current affairs content. Apple has been, as far as I can tell, conspicuously quiet, presumably hoping the whole incident will blow over. Indeed, The Mac Observer has contacted Apple over the issue but had received no response at the time of this writing.

I hope the Jon Stewart J.K. Rowling row does not stop Apple TV+ from bringing subscribers more current affairs options. But this is not a company that likes controversy or anything that could damage its clean-cut brand. I’d love to see if Tim Cook and other tech execs are passing notes around to producers now…

[Image credit: Cubankite /]

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