A number of former Jeopardy! contestants are demanding action from the show’s producers following a recent disturbance from a current player that was caught live on television.
Deadline reports that 467 past participants issued an open letter calling out the recent behavior of Kelly Donohue, whose appearance on the April 27 episode caused a disturbance online when he allegedly flashed a “white power” hand gesture in his introduction. The letter also cites a previous incident in which they say Donohue also answered a clue with a slur offensive to the Roma people.
“A recent contestant has caused concern among “Jeopardy!” viewers for two separate occurrences, and we as former contestants feel the need to speak out against the messaging that these choices communicated—either intentionally or unintentionally—by the contestant Kelly Donohue and, implicitly by association, the producers of “Jeopardy!,” the letter begins.
It goes on to describe the particular hand gesture, which the participants say “has been co-opted by white power groups, alt right groups, and an anti-government group that calls itself the Three Percenters,” asserts that it was other viewers who brought this to their attention online and that the decision not to reshoot footage of his introduction was a grave misstep. Additionally, the letter also implores the show’s producers to address Donohue’s actions as well as nix the offensive Roma slur and instead “craft clues that positively showcase the cultural heritage of the Roma and distance the association with hurtful stereotypes from the past.”
More from the letter:
Most problematic to us as a contestant community is the fact that Kelly has not publicly apologized for the ramifications of the gesture he made. If something has been misconstrued, an apology and a total disavowal of any connection to white supremacist doctrines is called for. We saw that gesture air on television. We are among the public it affected, and we are a diverse group of people. People of color, religious minorities, and other marginalized groups already live in a United States and a Canada that have structural and institutional racism, sexism, antisemitism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia embedded into their history and function. These people deal with microaggressions nearly every day of their lives, through words, actions, and assumptions that remind them on a constant basis that they are not the default, they are not the mainstream, they are not “real citizens.” And that is hard enough. That is enough for them to bear and enough for us to keep trying to recognize, to address, and to fight. That is already a series of walls and fences that keeps us from truly reaching the American ideal of e pluribus unum.
According to Newsweek, Donohue has spoken out in defense of the gesture, saying in a now deleted Facebook post that he was only trying to indicate that he had won three games.
“I just wanted to clear something up about my recent appearances on Jeopardy!, the greatest game show of all time,” Donohue wrote. “Competing on Jeopardy! was the thrill of a lifetime and being a returning champion is something I’ll never forget. Many of the great champions of old had a little signature hello they would do on-screen when being introduced by Johnny Gilbert. I decided to count my victories.”
He continued, “That’s a 1. That’s a 2. That’s a 3. No more. No less. There wasn’t a hidden agenda or any malice behind it.”
It remains to be seen what, if any, action Jeopardy! will take regarding this issue but in the times we’re living in, it would behoove them to move swiftly.