"He has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there," J.K. Rowling said of Donald Trump at the PEN Literary Gala

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May 17, 2016 11:00 AM

J.K. Rowling makes it clear she finds almost everything Donald Trump says “objectionable,” but defends his right to say it.

On Monday, the Harry Potter author was awarded the PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award at the 2016 PEN Literary Gala in New York, which honors those who support PEN America’s mission to defend freedom of expression around the world.

J.K. Rowling
Beowulf Sheehan/PEN America

In her acceptance speech, Rowling expressed her concern, as a self-identified moderate and liberal, with the spread of “intolerance of alternative viewpoints.”

“Now, I find almost everything 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,” said the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenwriter. “His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot.”

She also pointed out that, “only last year, we saw an online petition to ban Donald Trump from entry into the U.K. It garnered half a million signatures.”

Later, she added: “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. If you seek the removal of freedoms from an opponent simply on the grounds that they’ve offended you, you have crossed a line to stand alongside tyrants, who imprison, torture and kill on exactly the same justification.”

Sarah Jessica Parker (left) and J.K. Rowling
Ed Lederman/PEN America

Sarah Jessica Parker presented Rowling with the literary service award, which celebrated the author’s commitment to helping children develop a passion for reading and for using her platform to speak out against injustices. As she introduced Rowling, Parker spoke about how much her 13-year-old son, James Wilkie, has fallen in love with the Harry Potter series.

“I recall the joy and enormous satisfaction I felt when my son, James Wilkie, started reading the Harry Potter series, because for him, like for so many, it was the gateway to loving books for life,” the Sex and the City actress said, also crediting the books with her son’s love of storytelling.

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“He loved to deconstruct, to take the stories apart, to rip them apart, to see how their choices not only dictated the story, but changed them,” she added.

The other honorees at the 2016 PEN Literary Gala, held at the American Museum of Natural History, included Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch, imprisoned Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji, Lee-Anne Walter and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who both helped expose the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

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