NEWTOWN, Conn. — A Connecticut eighth-grader who misspelled the correct answer to a “Jeopardy!” question and lost money for it says he was cheated.
Thomas Hurley III correctly answered the Final Jeopardy! question about the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln. But his answer, “what is the emanciptation proclamation?” spelled with an extra “t,” was ruled out by host Alex Trebek and cost Thomas the $3,000 he bet on his $9,600 in winnings.
“I was pretty upset that I was cheated out of the Final Jeopardy! question,” the 12-year-old told The New-Times of Danbury. “It was just a spelling error.”
Hurley’s parents were on their son’s side and upset for a number of reasons.
“The thing that bothered me the 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 kid’s tournament! Everyone knew what he meant.”
Right or wrong, Hurley still would not have won.
He was up against Skyler Hornback, who set the all-time record for kids with $66,600. Hornback’s winnings were also the third-largest one-day total in the game’s history.
Many Jeopardy! viewers took to the Internet to shame the show’s producers and voice their plans to boycott future episodes.
“Jeopardy ripped him off! Will not watch it again,” said Freddie Adair on the show’s Facebook page.
“Boooooo! Jeopadary producers, you should be ashamed of yourselves,” read another comment, which like Hurley’s answer, contained a spelling error.
“I agree !! Stupid call !! DID I SPELL THAT RIGHT!!! I will not watch this show anymore!!!!” read another comment from Sonja McBride.
But Jeopardy! producers stood by their decision.
“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,” producers said in an email statement.
Some viewers thought the show made the right call in not accepting the misspelled answer.
“The question asked for the name of the document, which is The Emancipation Proclamation.” Had they allowed the misspelling they would have been rewriting history, and it really is that simple,” said Elle Gray on the show’s Facebook page.
“I was taught that you don’t know a word unless you can spell it, define, and use it in a sentence. Yep - spelling counts,” read a comment by Cathy Perkins.
“Kids need to learn to obey the rules, we have given too many ribbons for participating in contest for too many years,” read another comment by Frances Pohl.
The show was recorded in February, but aired Wednesday.
Thomas “was barely holding it together,” his father said. “He was almost in tears. He had to relive it on Wednesday.”