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A Jeopardy! winner’s hand gesture from Tuesday night’s show has sparked a protest by former contestants demanding an apology from producers.
A group of 467 purported former participants on the show posted an open letter on Medium on Wednesday accusing the syndicated game show’s producers of failing to catch what they allege is a white power hand gesture.
On Tuesday, when winner Kelly Donohue was introduced as having won three games, he “held his thumb and forefinger together with his other three fingers extended and palm facing inward, and he tapped his chest,” the letter noted.
Here’s what that looked like:
— Mannwell D. Glenn (@theclassixjawn) April 29, 2021
Donohue countered on Facebook that the gesture was only meant to confirm he had won three games, and noted he had previously flashed one finger, and then two, during his introductions for his earlier respective games.
But when he did three fingers following his third win, he made a gesture similar to the “OK” symbol made by a right-wing militia group called the Three Percenters that has also been co-opted by white power groups. The former contestants say the popular game show’s producers should have recognized how the gesture could be interpreted and prevented it from ever being shown on the air.
“This gesture was not a clear-cut symbol for the number three,” the letter said. “Regardless of [Donohue’s] stated intent, the gesture is a racist dog whistle. Some of the first people to notice this were not affiliated with Jeopardy! in any way — they were viewers who couldn’t believe what they’d seen, captured it on video, and shared it to Twitter. Among them were people of color who, needless to say, are attuned to racist messaging and not appreciative that the show allowed this symbol to be broadcast. … It was perceived by people across demographic boundaries as a wink and a nod by white men about their superiority. …. Leaving this messaging unchecked will encourage others to attempt similar things in the future. Is the production team of Jeopardy! prepared for more of this? Prepared for more attempts to disguise contempt as innocent gesturing? Prepared for the backlash and ramifications should one of those moments ever become tied to real-world violence?”
The letter also said that Donohue had “responded to a clue with a term for the Roma that is considered a slur.”
“We know that contestants sign morals and ethics-related agreements when they prepare to appear on the show, and we would ask the production team to evaluate this situation within that framework,” the letter concluded. “We really hope to see a statement and a disavowal of both of this week’s events, and we would like to see Jeopardy! address Kelly’s behavior.”
In a follow-up Facebook post, Donohue added Thursday, “I’m truly horrified with what has been posted about me on social media. I absolutely, unequivocally condemn white supremacy and racism of any kind. People who know me personally know that I am not a racist, but for the public at large it bears repeating: I am not a racist and I reject and condemn white supremacy and all forms of bigotry for the evil they are. It’s shameful to me to think anyone would try to use the stage of Jeopardy! to advance or promote such a disgusting agenda. During the taping of my fourth episode, I was simply raising three fingers to mark my 3rd win. There was nothing more I was trying to indicate. I deeply regret this terrible misunderstanding. I never meant to hurt a soul and I assure you I am no friend of racists or white supremacists.”
The Jeopardy! team had no immediate comment.
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