Jeopardy!’: One American Presidential Candidate Competed on the Show

by Emily Morgan
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The late Sen. John McCain — a war hero, longtime senator, and presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008, made his “Jeopardy!” debut long before he knew he would become a prominent political figure. When he was 28-years-old in 1965, the future Arizona Senator played on the classic quiz show but didn’t make it too far. 

John McCain on ‘Jeopardy!’

McCain played well on the first day of the competition but lost the next day. Although he had a high IQ and considered himself a trivia buff, he ended his “Jeopardy!” run when he failed to answer the “Final Jeopardy” question correctly. 

McCain lost to a literature question about Wuthering Heights, the classic novel published in 1847 by Emily Brontë. The clue, given by former “Jeopardy!” host Art Fleming was, “Cathy loved him, but married Edgar Linton instead.” Those familiar with Brontë’s work knew that the answer was her character, Heathcliff. However, McCain could only remember the book’s title and answered incorrectly: “What is Wuthering Heights?” 

McCain’s appearance came just two years before becoming a war prisoner in Vietnam on October 26, 1967. After serving, he would take his place in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982. 

Other Political Figures Who Had Game Show Runs

However, McCain isn’t the only politician to compete on popular television quiz shows. He is actually one of seven political figures to have made appearances on an array of game shows. Before former President Ronald Reagan made his foray into the world of politics, he appeared on the classic game show, “What’s My Line,” in 1956. 

In 2011, Former New Jersey representative Rush Holt beat IBM supercomputer Watson. The politician is also a nuclear physicist, a patent holder, and a five-time “Jeopardy!” champ.

Former President Bill Clinton impressed audiences when he went three for three during the quiz segment of NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” Clinton dominated the category: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Check out the clip at the 9-minute mark to see the hilarity ensue.  

In 1974, before he was President and while he was governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter appeared as a contestant on the game show’s syndicated version, “What’s My Line.” He was so anonymous at the time he wasn’t recognized. Just two years later, America would elect him as President.

Carter wasn’t the first future president to appear on “What’s My Line.” Former President Gerald Ford made an appearance nearly five years before becoming the House Minority Leader.

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