Newtown ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant says he was ‘cheated’ on answer


This wasn’t a spelling bee. This was “Jeopardy!” right?

That didn’t matter to host Alex Trebeck, who disqualified Thomas Hurley’s answer to a Final Jeopardy question on a recent Kids Week episode of the TV game show.

The question? What 1863 document did President Abraham Lincoln call a “fit and necessary war measure.”

The 12-year-old’s answer? “Emanciptation Proclamation” — just one letter shy of the correct response (there’s only one “T” in “Emancipation,” not two.)

“Because he misspelled it badly . . . that’s unfortunate. The judges are ruling against you,” Trebek informed a mortified Hurley, who had wagered $3,000 on the answer. (He took home $2,000 as the second runner-up.)

Suffice it to say, Hurley felt he had been mistreated.

“I was pretty upset that I was cheated out of the final `Jeopardy!’ question — it was just a spelling error,” the Newtown Middle School student complained to the Danbury News-Times recently.

Until now a regular viewer of the show, Thomas said the episode cost “Jeopardy!” a fan. It may have cost the show some adult fans, too. In the days after the episode aired, social media users took to Facebook and Twitter to express their disagreement and at times, outrage, over the perceived slight.

“I have always heard Alex say that spelling didn’t matter in Final Jeopardy — that as long as it was understandable then it would be taken,” Julie Ann Morris, of Florida, posted on Facebook. “Why didnt they accept this answer? Did things change? Yep, he still would have finished in second, but he would not have been humiliated on national TV had they accepted it.”

Others defended the decision of the “Jeopardy!” judges.

“So that airline pilot who crashed in California because he only missed the runway by a small amount . . . should that be a case of ‘close enough is good enough?’ of course not. Right is right, and wrong is wrong,” Paul Courteau, of Minnesota, chimed in on Facebook.

Despite coming in second, Hurley is still proud he was selected for the show, got to travel to California and did as well as he did. Of course, that doesn’t change the results.

“It’s just upsetting to have lost that way,” he said. “I don’t know why it would have counted as the wrong answer.”

Scott Gargan