Jonathan Van Ness Accuses John Cleese of Making 'Transphobic Comments' in His Defense of J.K. Rowling
"I’m afraid I’m not that interested in trans folks," John Cleese tweeted
John Cleese has found himself in hot water.
On Sunday, the 81-year-old actor and comedian was accused of transphobia after posting a series of tweets where he showed his support for Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who was similarly accused of making transphobic remarks earlier this year.
Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness called Cleese's words "transphobic."
The ordeal began after a Twitter user shared a screenshot of a tweet from the Monty Python co-founder, where he said that he had added his name to a list of others who were standing with Rowling, 55. After he was asked by a user, "Why the f--- can't you just let people be who they want to be?" Cleese responded back and wrote, "Deep down, I want to be a Cambodian police woman Is that allowed, or am I being unrealistic ?"
Then, after he was asked about his take on Rowling's controversial views on transgender individuals, Cleese tweeted, "I'm afraid I’m not that interested in trans folks. I just hope they're happy and that people treat them kindly."
"Right now I’m more focussed [sic] on threats to democracy in America, the rampant corruption in the UK, the appalling British press, the revelations about police brutality…," he continued, before finishing his thought in a separate tweet, writing, "...Covid19, the incompetence of the British government, China's complete disregard for the necessity to abandon fossil fuels, the developments in France between Macron and Islamicists, diabetes, and the recent deaths of several of my close friends Does than sound hard-hearted ?"
A representative for Cleese did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
Earlier this year, Rowling came under fire after she appeared to mock an article titled "Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate."
"'People who menstruate.' I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?" Rowling wrote on social media at the time. Then, days after the author received backlash for her comments, she released a controversial essay about her views on gender, which was also deemed transphobic.
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
"I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode 'woman' as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it," she wrote.
Stating that she's a survivor of sexual assault and domestic abuse, Rowling added, "So I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman ... then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside."
RELATED VIDEO: Daniel Radcliffe Says He's 'Deeply Sorry for the Pain' Caused by J.K. Rowling's Tweets on Gender Identity
Elsewhere, on Twitter, many angry social media users called out Cleese, with one writing that he has a "superficial understanding" of the topic.
"Yes, my understanding is superficial," he tweeted in response. "One thing: When a woman who was once a man is competing against women who have always been women, I think she has an advantage, because she inherited a man's body, which is usually bigger and stronger than a woman's. Does that prove phobia?”
Responding to Cleese's series of tweets, Jonathan Van Ness chimed in and alerted him that his words come at a time where "Trans & non binary people aren’t being treated kindly."
"Dear @JohnCleese you’ve made several transphobic comments here," the Queer Eye star, 33, wrote. "You do seem to not only be interested in trans folks, but also adding to transphobia at a time when trans people are being murdered world wide. Trans & non binary people aren’t being treated kindly.
Then, in a follow-up tweet, Van Ness called out both Rowling and Cleese, tweeting to both, "Try being a trans, non binary, or gender nonconforming person especially Black & Brown ones, ALONE in a rural town or ANYWHERE in the world. The @jk_rowling & @JohnCleese of the world could never. So cruel to constantly punch down onto a marginalized group of people"