A 12-year-old "Jeopardy!" contestant lost a chunk of his prize money last week because his correct answer misspelled the word "emancipation."
Thomas Hurley, of Newtown, Conn., appeared as a contestant on the game show's Kids Week tournament. He was in second place going into Final Jeopardy when host Alex Trebek threw this stumper out:
"Abraham Lincoln called this document, which took effect in 1863, 'a fit and necessary war measure.'"
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In Final Jeopardy, contestants must write down their answer and wage a bet. As the cameras settled on Hurley, his answer was revealed: "Emanciptation Proclamation."
"Well, because he misspelled it badly — you put a 'p' in there — that's unfortunate. The judges are ruling against you," Trebek said as Hurley was docked his $3,000 wager (the boy actually just put an extra "t" in the word).
Contestant Skyler Hornback then answered the question — and spelled it correctly — to double his winnings and set a Kids Week record with his $66,000 prize. Had Hurley spelled it right, he still wouldn’t have eclipsed Hornback.
"I was pretty upset that I was cheated out of the final 'Jeopardy!' question. It was just a spelling error," Hurley, a Newtown Middle School student, told the News Times.
The episode kicked off a heated debate on the "Jeopardy!" Facebook page.
"Alex didn't need to insult this kid's spelling, and many people feel that Thomas is owed an apology," one person wrote. "It didn't change the nature of the answer, as it would in say 'dessert vs. desert' since we all knew what the kid was trying to say."
"'Jeopardy!' has never really discounted answers because of adults' misspellings," another posted.
"Alex Trebek didn't have to be a jerk about it. Kid's 12. A simple 'sorry, right answer but wrong spelling' would have been sufficient," someone else commented. "Obviously the kid is no dummy for even getting that far on the show and probably knows more than most adults. Pretty pretentious of a guy who has the answers in front of him... and when was adding ONE extra letter 'badly misspelled.' I know this has nothing to do with it, but the kid is from Newtown. I'm not saying change the rules, just be a little more sensitive."
"Jeopardy!" issued a statement in response to all the backlash.
"If 'Jeopardy!' were to give credit for an incorrect response (however minor), the show would effectively penalize the other players," it read. "We love presenting young people as contestants on our show, and make every effort to be fair and consistent in their treatment."
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