Conn. ‘Kid Jeopardy’ Contestant Says Trebek ‘Cheated’ Him

Alex Trebek, in a file shot from "Jeopardy" (Photo: Getty Images)

A Connecticut boy who appeared on “Kids Jeopardy” is accusing host Alex Trebek of cheating him when Trebek ruled that the boy’s misspelling of a word would cost him a correct answer in “Final Jeopardy.”

The boy — Thomas Hurley III, 12, of Newtown — has gotten quite a lot of attention over the last day or so following an interview he gave a local newspaper, The News-Times of Danbury.

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At issue was the boy’s spelling of the word “emancipation,” as in “Emancipation Proclamation.”

“What is the Emancipation Proclamation?” was the correct “answer” to the “Final Jeopardy” clue — which was in the category of “Famous Documents.” The clue asked the contestants to identify the document that Abraham Lincoln characterized as a “fit and necessary war measure.”

Hurley wagered $3,000 of the $9,600 he had amassed during the game, which aired last week (it was taped way back in February). Trebek declared his answer wrong because he misspelled “emancipation.” So, in the interview with the Connecticut paper, the boy said he felt Trebek “cheated” him. “I was pretty upset that I was cheated out of the final `Jeopardy!’ question. It was just a spelling error,” the boy complained.

He nevertheless did go home with $2,000 in consolation prize money. Moreover, he had no chance of winning the game; the winner already had $36,600 going into the final round, so there was no way Hurley could have wagered enough money to catch him anyway.

In response to the story, which got picked up by other papers and news sites over the weekend, “Jeopardy” issued a statement defending the Trebek ruling. “If Jeopardy! were to give credit for an incorrect response (however minor), the show would effectively penalize the other players,” the show said, according to this Hollywood Reporter story. “We love presenting young people as contestants on our show and make every effort to be fair and consistent in their treatment.”

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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