“Contestants may change their responses as long as neither the host nor the judges have made a ruling.”
That one rule, known by insiders for decades and made explicitly public by the show in 2016, caused a lot of headache and controversy this week in Jeopardy! spaces, with clueless viewers stirring the tabloid media into a feeding frenzy, slandering newly-minted permanent host Ken Jennings with baseless accusations of misogyny (New York Post’s Decider) and favoritism (Fox News). (The author will not be linking to these articles in order to prevent their clickbait tactics from succeeding.)
Viewers were confused because champion Luigi de Guzman was permitted to correct a misspoken answer at the end of the Jeopardy! round (an attempt to pronounce artist John Constable), whereas challenger Harriet Wagner was ruled against on her misspoken answer (saying Angela LeGuin instead of Ursula LeGuin) before she was able to issue her own correction at the end of Double Jeopardy!. However, the rules are clear: if the host has ruled, the response is final. Both rulings were correct within the scope of the game’s rules—multiple people even reported to Reddit that judges stopped tape in both instances in order to confirm that Ken’s rulings were acceptable.
This is not even an isolated incident in Jeopardy! history—back in 2014, Brad Rutter was ruled correct after correcting “streptolococcus” to “streptococcus” in Battle of the Decades—a ruling that, here at The Jeopardy! Fan, I even said was consistent, as Chip Bell was given three chances six weeks prior to that to pronounce Narragansett Bay.
The contestant most affected by this, retired Houston lawyer Harriet Wagner, has now taken to Twitter in defense of the host. In a tweet yesterday afternoon, she pleaded, “Leave Ken alone!!! He’s my main man (except for my hubby) and has to work in real time the same as the contestants. He’s doing a great job.” I agree. Ken and the judges acted within the bounds of the show’s published rulebooks, and the media should be ashamed of its behavior and attempts to turn Jeopardy! into a reality show circus.
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