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Ken Jennings Under Fire From ‘Jeopardy!’ Fans For Controversial Ruling

Since Alex Trebek’s death in 2020, the public hasn’t hesitated to call out his successors’ missteps. Ken Jennings recently took the helm as the permanent host of Jeopardy!. While fans have accepted Jennings with mostly open arms, they had some major criticism for the former champ after a recent episode.

Ken Jennings Blurs Lines With ‘Jeopardy!’ Ruling

New Jeopardy! host Ken Jennings is in fans’ crosshairs after toeing the line on a controversial ruling. On Wednesday’s episode, Jennings allowed defending champion Luigi de Guzman to correct himself on an answer. The clue read: “Here’s a typical 19th-century landscape by this British painter” and was accompanied by a painting.

De Guzman answered, “Who is Constant?” Jennings responded, “Say again,” prompting de Guzman to correct himself: “Sorry, who is Constable?”

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It’s unconventional for a host to give a contestant a second chance at an answer. It’s especially alarming considering Jennings seemingly did not afford another contestant the same privilege. Later in the show, competitor Harriet Wagner had a similar slip-up while recalling the name of a fantasy novel author for $2,000.

“Who is Angela LeGuin—ah—Ursula LeGuin?” Wagner responded. Jennings didn’t accept her correction: “Yes, Harriet, you remembered that her name was Ursula, but I had already begun ruling against you when you began correcting yourself.”

According to the Jeopardy! website, “Contestants may change their responses as long as neither the host nor the judges have made a ruling.” The technical difference between the two seems to be that while Wagner corrected herself, her initial incorrect answer was clearly heard. De Guzman, on the other hand, didn’t speak clearly enough when stating his initial incorrect answer, and thus Jennings was required to ask for a clearer response.

De Guzman Moves On To The Next Round

Still, the ruling is still a bit murky. While Ken Jennings had begun to rule against Harriet Wagner before she finished, she was already in the process of correcting herself when he interjected. Many fans believe he should have given her the opportunity to finish. Some are even decrying sexism on Jennings’ part. However, the decision as to which answers counted and which didn’t falls to the show’s judges—who have had to explain their controversial rulings before—rather than the host.

It’s even more upsetting once you realize that if Wagner had simply responded “Who is LeGuin?” and omitted the author’s first name entirely, she still would have won the $2,000 clue. Besides, it was not a game where $2,000 was inconsequential. Wagner gave a correct answer in Final Jeopardy that nearly doubled her score, landing her just $700 behind Luigi de Guzman—the returning champion who did receive the prize for Wagner’s fumbled question.

Since Jennings seemingly prompted de Guzman to correct his own answer the round before, it really seemed like an injustice to Wagner for some watchers. It’s only salt in the wound that de Guzman progressed to the next episode. However, de Guzman later acknowledged the controversial rulings on Twitter.

“Having watched the game again as an outsider and with cold eyes, I want to say that I probably owe @harriet4332263 two apologies … If I’d have been Ken, I’d have either cut both of us off, or hesitated both times. But that wasn’t the side of the stage I was on on the day, and it took a great deal of separation in time and space for me to watch it and see it,” de Guzman wrote.

It was an extremely kind sentiment on de Guzman’s part—the sign of a truly gracious winner. He says he’s reached out to Wagner to make things right, and there are no hard feelings between the contestants. As for Jennings’ time as host, it remains to be seen if these sorts of unusual rulings will become a common occurrence or if they will be remembered as an unfortunate isolated hiccup.

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