‘I find almost everything that Mr. Trump says objectionable.’
It’s safe to say J.K. Rowling is not a fan of Donald Trump.
She once claimed that Voldemort — the evil, mass-murdering wizard hell-bent on world domination in her novels — “was nowhere near as bad” as the presumptive 2016 GOP nominee for president.
So I think Trump has yet to win her over.
Yet even with her deep-rooted dislike of the reality TV star-turned-presidential hopeful, Rowling came to his defense in a speech on May 16, 2016.
Well … sort of.
At the PEN America Literary Gala in New York City, where Rowling received the PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award, the author explained why she opposed a popular petition in the U.K. that had aimed to ban Trump from entering Britain.
Trump’s past comments on Muslims, petitioners had argued, qualify as hate speech, and he should not be welcome there.
In her speech, Rowling explained that the freedom of speech that protects his offensive language is the same freedom that protects her right to call him a “bigot”:
“Now, I find almost everything that Mr. Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive and bigoted. But he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there. His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot. His freedom guarantees mine.”
“If my offended feelings can justify a travel ban on Donald Trump, I have no moral grounds on which to argue that those offended by feminism, or the fight for transgender rights, or universal suffrage should not oppress campaigners for those causes.”
Ultimately, the petition Rowling referred to failed to produce an actual ban on Trump’s entry to the U.K. — but not before British parliament had a field day debating the matter, many members using the opportunity to slam the real estate mogul’s offensive comments against immigrants and Muslims.
Rowling’s remarks serve as a great reminder that, yes, even presidential candidates have the right to say unconscionably offensive things.
As historian Evelyn Beatrice Hall once wrote in reference to a thought by famed philosopher Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
During a very heated election season, her words are ones we should all keep in mind — even if it means accepting the racist, sexist, Islamophobic, ableist, homophobic, xenophobic and flat-out despicable things that trickle out of Trump’s mouth and into a megaphone.
So, I say we do Rowling a solid and focus on keeping Trump as far away from the White House as possible — not attempt to censor the harmful things he has to say.
Watch footage from the gala, including J.K. Rowling’s speech, below.
Rowling’s speech starts at about the 1:49:00 mark.
In the thumbnail image, the photo on the left is by Tom Pennington/Getty Images, and the photo on the right is by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images.