‘Jeopardy!’ Fans Blast Show on Social Media for What It Did to This 12-Year-Old

Aug 5, 2013  •  Post A Comment

"Social media is still howling after last week’s perceived slight of eighth-grader Thomas Hurley III" during Kids Week on "Jeopardy!," reports CNN.

The CNN story also asks whether it’s not the "saddest moment in ‘Jeopardy!’ history."

As the article notes, here’s what happened: "Thomas knew the answer to the Final Jeopardy question: ‘Abraham Lincoln called this document, which took effect in 1863, "a fit and necessary war measure."’

"But the 12-year-old Connecticut boy added an extra ‘t’ to his answer: What is ’emanciptation proclamation.’  Host Alex Trebek said Thomas ‘misspelled it badly.’ 

‘That’s unfortunate,’ he said. ‘The judges are ruling against you.’ "

As you’ll see in the video clip below, Trebek actually misspeaks, saying that Thomas put in an extra "p," when it was an extra "t" that he put in.

The CNN story continues, "Thomas, who was in second place with $9,600 in winnings, had wagered $3,000 on the answer. He hung his head.

"’The thing that bothered me most was the way Alex Trebek and the producers treated my son. They were kind of smug,’ his father, Thomas Hurley II, told CNN on Sunday night. ‘It’s a kids’ tournament! Everyone knew what he meant.’ 

"The show was recorded in February, but aired Wednesday. Hurley said his son ‘was barely holding it together, he was almost in tears. He had to relive it on Wednesday.’"

CNN notes that the "Jeopardy!" producers and judges released this statement about the incident: "If ‘Jeopardy!’ were to give credit for an incorrect response (however minor), the show would effectively penalize the other players. We love presenting young people as contestants on our show, and make every effort to be fair and consistent in their treatment."

Social media exploded with comments about the incident, most of them blasting the show, as the CNN story reports:

" ‘I used to love Jeopardy, but how Alex treated that kid and embarrassed him was uncalled for,’ Luke Tran said in a post on the ‘Jeopardy!’ Facebook page. ‘He called him out on his spelling saying it was badly misspelled when it wasn’t that badly misspelled it was just misspelled slightly.’

"Some questioned the point of the game show.

" ‘Jeopardy is not a spelling bee game and frankly before Alex Trebek or the judges penalize this boy for not spelling a word correctly then Alex trebek needs too explain too the contestants that spelling matters in the final around,’ Ash Cruz Rios-James also said on Facebook."

To further complicate matters, after we here at TVWeek looked at the following video it seems to us that an argument can be made that the winning contestest misspelled the word "proclamation" in his answer, spelling it "proclanation." And his last "n" is not really legible at all. But clearly in the case of his answer the show’s judges and producers decided they knew what he intended to write.  

Here’s the video of the incident:


  1. Kids need to toughen up and learn life isn’t fair. He still would’ve lost the game anyway, so the sniffy fit just demonstrates society’s over-coddling of children. Helicopter parents need to learn to back off and not have a meltdown everytime Johnny isn’t praised lavishly.

  2. So, it appears the the Jeopardy judges were NOT the biggest jerks of all. There’s always a bigger one.

  3. So hey, the show’s judges are of no consequence, everyone should now just “be nice.”
    Got it.

  4. No kids need to see fairness play out as often as possible so they are optimistic and can bring that to our society. this is ridiculous. one letter wrong, but the word is right and easily understand what he is saying and he’s out. Its just wrong, period. The other kid still would have won, but this kid would have been treated fairly. Give this kid alex’s job. And HG I hope a mean old guy like you doesn’t have kids.

  5. Many times I’ve seen Final Jeopardy answers that were fairly illegible but since Trebek and the judges were able to make out the intended answer the contestant was given credit. The kid had the right answer…period. There was no question about that!

  6. If you are going to cry when you lose, don’t go on Jeopardy!
    It didn’t make a difference anyway – He is just a crybaby!

  7. I have heard Alex Trebek say many times on Jeopardy that contestants are not penalized for spelling, with two exceptions — (1) if the category itself involved spelling or (2)the misspelling caused the proper name or definition to change from the correct response. In this case, neither applied. Although it did not affect who won the game, it did affect the amount of money that the boy won.
    Had I been in Alex’s shoes, I would have appealed again to the judges to allow the response to be considered correct. If the judges refused, I would have pulled a “Richard Dawson.” (On an episode of “Family Feud” he felt that a judge’s ruling was so blatantly unfair that he stated on air that he would not be back for the next show unless the family was allowed to return. Although Richard apologized the next day, the family was indeed brought back.) The viewing public would have been overwhelmingly on Alex’s side.
    As for the boy being a “crybaby,” how would you feel if it were your son? If someone stole your young kid’s bike, would you tell him, “Quit your crying. So someone took your bike — get over it!” There is enough time for kids to learn that life is sometimes not fair without adults piling on.

  8. The ruling didn’t affect the amount of money he won. He would have come in second place whether the judges accepted the answer or not. Seocnd place pays $2,000, regardless of how much “money” you earn during the game.

  9. Guess I’m a jerk too b/c I agree w/you! The only way the kid had a chance to win is if the other boy choked . . . and if little Thomas could “barely hold it together” watching that, he’s got some hard life lessons ahead.
    While Alex did say the child misspelled the word “badly”, the implication was obviously that it was spelled incorrectly. Having already said “misspelled”, Alex knew the word “incorrect(ly)” would not have been the correct modifier and therefore chose to use the word “badly”. Thomas Hurley II & Luke Tran both need to lighten up.
    As for TV Week’s allegation that the winner misspelled the word “proclamation”, the “n” was clear to me as well.

  10. Whether you think the judges were wrong or right, read the last paragraph of the above article. If, in fact, the article is correct and the winner’s answer was also misspelled, both boy’s answers should have been ruled incorrect.
    “To further complicate matters, after we here at TVWeek looked at the following video it seems to us that an argument can be made that the winning contestest misspelled the word “proclamation” in his answer, spelling it “proclanation.” And his last “n” is not really legible at all.” It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  11. As a former contestant on Jeopardy, I can attest to the fact that Alex Trebek is, indeed, not a very nice person. He may come across that way onair, but when you’re playing the game on that stage he’s cold and arrogant.
    That he gets his jollies by picking on a 12 y/o comes as no surprise.

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