In the debut episode of the new podcast The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling, available on platforms including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Audible, Rowling is quoted as saying, “I do not walk around my house thinking about my legacy. You know, what a pompous way to live your life walking around thinking, ‘What will my legacy be?’ Whatever, I’ll be dead. I care about now. I care about the living.”
The podcast, produced by media company Free Press and hosted by Megan Phelps-Roper, a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church, has released the first two episodes, with the remaining five to be made available in weekly instalments.
Phelps-Roper chose to cover Rowling’s story because of the contrast between the author’s treatment by the extremist right-wing Westboro, who condemned her as Satanic, and the backlash from the left over her views on the transgender community.
Rowling has previously been criticised for her statements on the transgender community and her perceived threat to “the lived reality of women globally”. She has maintained that self-declaration of gender identity should not be sufficient to determine legal gender status. In a podcast trailer released last week, Rowling said that her statements had been “profoundly” misunderstood and that she had “never set out to upset anyone”.
In the podcast’s first episode, Phelps-Roper explains her interest in Rowling’s story: “The woman who was condemned as Satanic by the extremist right-wing Westboro Baptist Church is now being denounced by the left.” The podcast’s second episode delves into the backlash against Rowling in the 1990s from the Christian Right, who accused her of “mainstreaming witchcraft and poisoning children’s minds”.
The podcast, which takes a largely sympathetic view of Rowling, has reignited controversy and criticism, with the BBC issuing a second apology to the author in less than a month. Accusations of transphobia made by a guest on live current affairs show mainly went unchallenged by the host.