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Some ‘Jeopardy!’ fans accused Ken Jennings of a ‘misogynistic’ ruling. They just don’t know the rules

During Ken Jennings’ first week as a permanent host of ‘Jeopardy!,’ the controversial headlines started rolling in

SHARE Some ‘Jeopardy!’ fans accused Ken Jennings of a ‘misogynistic’ ruling. They just don’t know the rules
Ken Jennings on the set of “Jeopardy!”

Ken Jennings on the set of “Jeopardy!”

Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

In Ken Jennings’ first week as permanent host of “Jeopardy!,” the controversial headlines started rolling in.

“‘Jeopardy!’ host Ken Jennings accused of misogynistic ruling after letting contestant change his answer,” Decider reported on Sept. 15.

“‘Jeopardy!’ fans revolt when Ken Jennings allows champ to correct wrong answer,” the New York Post wrote a few hours later.

“‘Jeopardy!’ fans slam Ken Jennings for letting current champ correct himself,” TV Insider also reported.

The quiz show started trending on Twitter, as angry viewers began to flood the site with their reactions. But what all of these headlines don’t reveal — and what the upset fans who took to social media clearly don’t know — is that the controversy was misconstrued.

Jennings was simply following the rules of the game.

What is the Ken Jennings controversial ‘Jeopardy!’ ruling about?

During the “Jeopardy!” episode that aired Sept. 14, contestant Luigi de Guzman — who at the time had three wins under his belt — landed on a clue that showed a painting of a 19th-century landscape. De Guzman was asked to name the British painter.

“Who is Constant?” the attorney from Arlington, Virginia, responded.

Jennings hesitated: “Say it again?”

“Sorry, who is Constable?” de Guzman clarified.

The show deemed de Guzman’s correction acceptable and moved on with the game.

Later in the episode, contestant Harriet Wagner also misspoke during a clue about an author, saying “Angela LeGuin” instead of “Ursula LeGuin.” Unlike de Guzman, however, Wagner’s correction — which came shortly after she misspoke — was not granted (it should be noted that had Wagner simply said “LeGuin,” her response would’ve been accepted).

“Yes, Harriet, you remembered that her name was Ursula, but I had already begun ruling against you when you began correcting yourself,” Jennings explained.

Jennings was referring to a “Jeopardy!” rule that states “contestants may change their responses as long as neither the host nor the judges have made a ruling.”

“There’s no way to prepare for how nerves may affect you when the game is in play,” a post from the “Jeopardy!” website explains. “For instance, have you ever seen a contestant blurt out a response, then give a ‘where-did-that-come-from’ look? Don’t laugh! It happens. If you’re giving a response and suddenly hear your mouth saying something your brain wasn’t planning on — or forget to phrase your response in the form of a question — you can correct yourself; but you’ll have to be quick.”

“The rules are clear: if the host has ruled, the response is final,” wrote Andy Saunders, who runs the website The “Jeopardy!” Fan. “Both rulings were correct within the scope of the game’s rules — multiple people even reported to Reddit that judges stopped tape in both instances in order to confirm that Ken’s rulings were acceptable.”

De Guzman went on to win Wednesday’s game, and to date has accrued $140,700 over five victories, per The “Jeopardy!” Fan.

What did the ‘Jeopardy!’ contestants say about the Ken Jennings ruling?

On the night the episode aired, de Guzman opened up about the ruling on Twitter.

I knew it was Constable. I recognized the painting. In the moment I had this memory of speaking to someone about Constable. But in between seeing/remembering/thinking/buzzing/answering, my wires got crossed and I said something like ‘Constant.’ I saw Ken hesitate, and corrected myself.

If I had been in Ken’s shoes, I probably would have cut Luigi off *brusquely* and moved on, de Guzman continued. But Ken hesitated, and in the moment, I saw him hesitate, and I kept talking. The rule ended up on my side, but looking at it cold, I see how it could have ended up differently.

The “Jeopardy!” champion then referenced Wagner’s “LeGuin” moment.

“Same situation, but Ken didn’t hesitate. ... He cut her off,” he said. “That put her on the other side of the rule, and I got the rebound and a put-back. If I’d have been Ken, I’d have either cut both of us off, or hesitated both times. But that wasn’t the side of the stage I was on on the day, and it took a great deal of separation in time and space for me to watch it and see it.”

De Guzman said he has since reached out to Wagner, a retired lawyer from Houston, Texas, about the ruling.

“She has shown me the grace befitting a great litigator,” he wrote. “That means a lot to me, and I really appreciate it.

The following day — after some of the sensational headlines started rolling in — Wagner also opened up on Twitter. Her response was brief and to the point.

“Leave Ken alone!!!” she wrote. “He’s my main man (except for my hubby) and has to work in real time the same as the contestants. He’s doing a great job.”

Jennings and “The Big Bang Theory”/“Call Me Kat” star Mayim Bialik have both been named permanent hosts of “Jeopardy!” Jennings is hosting the quiz show through December — including the highly anticipated Tournament of Champions — and Bialik will then take over in January, the Deseret News reported.