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.”

Categories: General
Scott Gargan

4 Responses

  1. Brian Sullivan says:

    The rule has always been that you can misspell a word as long as it doesn’t effect pronunciation. On last night’s replay, a contestant was ruled wrong for the answer of “Waitin for Godot” on Final Jeopardy.

  2. JK Dates says:

    Anyone watching the show could read the chagrin on the moppet’s face. Bright has nothing to do with this, over rated spoiled and entitled probably do. Those issues sit solidly in the corner of the parents.
    Dumbing it down, 4 games win the series not 3.

  3. Kate says:

    Technically if he had won with an a misspelled answer – that would have been cheating and if I were the other child who lost because of that I would have felt it was unfair. It isn’t cheating when the game show follows the rules. Yes, it’s a tough word to spell and he had the right answer in his head, but the rules are that you have to spell the answer correctly and he didn’t. game over.

  4. Doug says:

    He finished in second place. If he’d gotten the final question right, he would have finished in second place. Somebody get this kid a calculator along with a dictionary.