A LGBTQ+ activist has been forced to publicly apologize to J.K Rowling after calling her a Nazi on Twitter due to her anti-trans views.
JJ Welles – whose Twitter bio says he is a drag queen – got into a heated exchange with Rowling in which he said she was a “Nazi or at least has views that align with them.”
Throughout the exchange, Rowling threatened Welles with legal action twice.
“The thing about the solicitors [lawyers] game is everyone can play, JJ,” Rowling wrote. “I ignored your ‘hyperbolic metaphor’ about burning me to death in 2020, but I’m starting to think that was a mistake. What’s your solicitor’s view on this Nazi accusation? Would they advise you to defend it in court?” She ended the tweet with a kiss-face emoji.
Later that same day, Rowling tweeted, “Okey dokey JJ, we’ll play it your way. Give my regards to your solicitor!” She then added a winky face emoji.
Okey dokey, JJ, we’ll play it your way. Give my regards to your solicitor!😉— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 29, 2022
That conversation took place on December 29, 2022. This week, Welles posted a series of tweets apologizing, leading many to assume he was contacted by Rowling’s lawyers.
“I would like to publicly apologise for a previous Twitter thread where I interacted with JK Rowling on matters relating to the transgender community,” he wrote. “I have now removed these tweets and would like to apologise to JK Rowling directly for causing potential upset.”
“I failed to choose my words with care and would like to retract my previous statements relating to her views on the LGBTQ+ and more specifically, transgender people.”
“I would also like to retract my likening to JK Rowling to any far right or Nazi organisation and emphasise I do not wish any individual, inclusive of JK Rowling, to come to any harm.”
In this case, Rowling may have had U.K. law on her side.
U.K. libel laws are looser than in the U.S. In the U.K., the burden of proof is on the person who made the claim to prove what they said is true. In addition, an accuser – Rowling in this case – merely has to prove what a person said is damaging to their reputation, rather than show any actual negative repercussions from the comments.
In the U.S., on the other hand, the accuser needs to not only prove a defamatory statement was false but also that the person who made the claim knew it was false and said it anyway. Moreover, plaintiffs usually have to show damages, or negative, material consequences of the libelous statements, like losing a job.
Many replied to Welles’s apology by criticizing Rowling for using her money and influence to threaten and silence him.
Rowling has been extremely vocal in her anti-trans views. In 2020, she famously posted an essay on her official website outlining her concerns about “trans activism,” which included the baseless assertion that allowing trans women access to women’s restrooms and changing rooms would put cis women in danger of sexual assault. Today the essay reads like a template for much of the moral panic around gender-affirming healthcare for young people and just about every other attack on trans people from right-wing politicians across the U.S.
Rowling has since come out in support of conversion therapy for trans people, and claimed that almost everyone agrees with her, even as famous people that she has worked with condemned her words. More recently, her tweets about trans issues have devolved to the level of trolling.