‘Jeopardy!’: Remember Controversial Moment when 12-Year-Old Lost Final Jeopardy Because of Misspelled Word?

by Chris Haney
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Back in 2013, Jeopardy! faced backlash over a controversial final round moment that saw a 12-year-old boy lose because he misspelled a word.

Jeopardy! contestant Thomas Hurley III took part in one of the annual Kids Week episodes on the game show. During Final Jeopardy!, Hurley guessed the right answer of “Emancipation Proclamation.” The clue suggested that it was a document from 1863, which Abraham Lincoln called ‘a fit and necessary war measure.’

However, there was one problem. The eighth-grader from Newtown, Connecticut added an extra ‘T’ to ’emancipation’ when he instead wrote ’emanciptation.’ The slight error ended up costing Hurley $3,000 as he seemed to be in disbelief over the ruling. Although it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway.

Another contestant, Skyler Hornback, led all contestants going into the final round. He had a huge lead with $36,000 and also spelled “Emancipation Proclamation” correctly. He almost doubled his money when he bet an extra $30,000, which took him to $66,000 on the day. The single-day total almost beat the likes of Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings‘ one-episode total of $74,000.

Of course, fans of the show weren’t happy with host Alex Trebek or the game show for being so harsh about Hurley’s spelling. The show received a ton of criticism for how they handled the situation with many saying it’s a trivia show, not a Spelling Bee.

Not long after, Jeopardy! producers released a statement, which the Huffington Post relayed:

“If Jeopardy! were to give credit for an incorrect response (however minor), the show would effectively penalize the other players. We love presenting young people as contestants on our show, and make every effort to be fair and consistent in their treatment.”

‘Jeopardy!’ Still Looking For Alex Trebek Replacement, Going With ‘Gut Instinct’

Following longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek’s death at age of 80 last November, the game show has used numerous celebrity guest hosts at the podium. As of now, the show still has not named a permanent host. But producer Mike Richards recently opened up some about their search.

In an interview from June 10, Richards shared that he will lean on his team and trust his gut when making that final decision.

“[We have] the most robust team of people I have ever seen looking at this and analyzing it in a very cerebral way,” Richards explained to the Associated Press. “It’s a real change from the way casting has traditionally been done on television. It’s usually been a gut instinct of the head executive: ‘How about that person?’”

It’s going to be an incredibly tough choice to pick the next Jeopardy! host. It will be no easy task to replace the legendary Alex Trebek. Yet Richards is hoping that fans of the game show will give the new permanent host a chance.

“My hope is that whoever is chosen will be given a chance to prove why they were chosen, without too much static,” Richards said. “Ultimately, we are trying to put out the best product for our fans. That tends to narrow your focus to a pretty nice North Star, as opposed to, ‘What’s the internet going to say?’”

Outsider.com