Jeopardy! has seen its fair share of controversial moments over the years. Some of them are innocent and hilarious, while others are less so. You will recognize many of these if you’ve been watching the show for a while. Here are the eight most controversial moments on the show.
8. Ken Jennings and His “Hoe”
Ken Jennings, the reigning king of Jeopardy!, who has also become the show’s host, caused a fair bit of controversy in 2004. During his 75-game winning streak, Jennings answered “What is a hoe?” to a question about a gardening tool. “What is a rake?” was the answer the host was looking for.
At the same time, Jennings wasn’t entirely wrong, as there is a garden tool called a hoe. Either way, the hilarious answer made for many funny YouTube compilations and reaffirmed Ken Jennings’s status as Jeopardy!’s sweetheart.
7. The Kids Week Misspelling
Thomas Hurley misspelled his answer during a 2013 Kids Week episode of Jeopardy. Instead of “Emancipation Proclamation,” he wrote “Emanciptation Proclamation.” Young Thomas’s answer was deemed incorrect. This event brought into question the rules of the game.
Should the host and jury have been more lenient with the contestant and given him the point, even though he misspelled the answer? According to the rules, minor misspellings are allowed if it is clear what the contestant was trying to say.
6. James Holzhauer’s Tactics
Though it’s not against the rules to bounce around the board and pick random questions, hosts prefer if contestants go from lowest to highest value. It makes sense, as the questions get more difficult as you go down vertically, and you’ll encounter some follow-up questions.
The Forrest Bounce method was introduced by Chuck Forrest back in 1985. The method consists of bouncing around the board and picking questions at random. There have not been many contestants that have adopted this method. One of the few was James Holzhauer, who used it to hunt for Daily Doubles in 2019. The contestant was very successful with it and won almost $2,500,000 throughout his 33 games.
While some viewers applauded his success, others complained about him breaking the game’s rules. Whether or not you think James was playing against the rules, his strategy was very effective.
5. Gangsta’s Paradise
In an episode of the show in 2018, a contestant named Nick Spicher lost over $3,000 because he mispronounced his answer. Instead of saying “Gangsta’s Paradise”, he said “Gangster’s Paradise.”
The rules of Jeopardy! clearly state that an answer will be accepted even if it is misspelled, as long as it’s still clear what the contestant is trying to say. At the same time, changing the number of syllables in a word or changing the pronunciation entirely is not allowed. Spicher’s answer was controversial because it was clear what the contestant meant. The question is—is it fair that his answer wasn’t deemed correct?
4. Jeopardy! and the Covid-19 Pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic was a difficult time for everyone. As most of the Western world had never experienced anything similar, finding the right way to handle it was challenging. In April of 2020, a debate ensued about the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic and its dangers to our society. It appeared as though Jeopardy! was still filming, which caused some outrage from the show’s audience. It should be noted that the episodes in question were filmed in February 2020, before the severity of the situation was fully realized in North America.
3. Dr. Oz as Guest Host
After the untimely passing of Jeopardy!’s host Alex Trebek, the show’s executive producers have invited multiple hosts to take over the hosting duties. One of these hosts was Dr. Mehmet Oz, an American TV presenter. A decision that seemed to make much sense at the time did not prove successful.
Dr. Oz has a record of offering unscientific advice with no medical basis. Fans of the show and even former contestants disagreed with the decision to employ Dr. Oz, causing him to leave the show.
2. The Palestine vs Israel Conflict
As the political situation in the world continues to deteriorate, one Jeopardy! contestant’s answer started another debate online. In 2020, a contestant responded “What is Palestine?” when asked about the location of the Church of the Nativity. The correct answer was meant to be Israel, which sparked a raging debate.
Though the political conflict is still ongoing, Jeopardy! They did not mean to weigh in on it or support either country in proposing this clue. Later, the show had to clarify that they did not intend to participate in any geopolitical debate.
1. Mike Richards Becoming the Host
After the passing of Alex Trebek, the long-time host of the show, Mike Richards was named permanent host in 2021. Mike Richards was also the executive producer of Jeopardy!, which caused a fair bit of controversy. Richards had to step down from his role as host after just one episode. Another reason his career as the host of Jeopardy! was so short-lived because of his controversial past.
Employees of The Price is Right have filed multiple discrimination lawsuits against him, as he used to work on that show too. Finally, offensive remarks Richards has made about women and other minority groups have been brought to the surface, causing the public to riot against Richards as the new host of Jeopardy!
What Are Your Thoughts?
After over 50 years on television, Jeopardy! is bound to have some controversial moments. Luckily, most of them get resolved immediately and don’t cause any lasting frustration among the show’s viewers. As the show continues its splendid run, we are sure there will be more hilarious and outrageous moments to reflect on in a few years. As long as the showrunners address the controversies before they get too far, we can continue to enjoy Jeopardy!
Is there any amazing controversial moment that we missed? What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts with us in the comments! And for more great Jeopardy! moments, check out Trivia Bliss’s lists of the craziest Jeopardy! records, most amazing Jeopardy! questions ever, the worst Jeopardy! answers, the hardest Jeopardy! questions, the funniest categories that were on the show, the worst episodes of Jeopardy!, and the funniest Jeopardy! moments of all-time.