A Jeopardy! winner is defending himself from over 400 former participants after he flashed what many perceived to be a white power symbol during his introduction on the game show.
On Wednesday, a group of 467 former contestants issued an open letter on Medium demanding “a statement and a disavowal” of the actions of Kelly Donohue, who the letter accuses of performing a racist gesture “either intentionally or unintentionally” on two separate occasions this week.
The letter, which also condemned Donohue and the show’s writers over the use of a derogatory term for the Romani culture, mentioned how the contestant “held his thumb and forefinger together with his other three fingers extended and palm facing inward, and he tapped his chest” at the start of his fourth game. It stated:
“This, whether intentional or not, resembled very closely a gesture that has been coopted by white power groups, alt right groups, and an anti-government group that calls itself the Three Percenters.”
In response to the backlash, Donohue insisted his hand signal was simply to show he’d won three games — a defense that can be supported by the fact that he held up one and two fingers after his first and second wins.
While the letter acknowledges that the gesture could have been meant as a simple brag, it states:
“Regardless of his stated intent, is a racist dog whistle.”
After his initial response received criticism for not directly condemning white supremacists, the embattled contestant posted a longer apology on Thursday, writing:
“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.”
Yeah, he’s being pretty adamant! Unless he’s trying to play some 4D chess here, would a dog whistler be THAT adamant in their apology? Usually they aren’t. Usually they deny it but not to this extent. He continued:
“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. I removed the previous post because the comments were more than I could bear. I stand by the statement itself and you can find it reported in other media. I did, however, understand the fair criticism that I did not include a forceful condemnation of white supremacy in my initial statement. I hope my feelings on that matter are clear now.”
Even if he’s telling the truth, however, the former contestants think the production team dropped the ball by not catching the offensive gesture and editing it out, as they’ve done in the past. The letter explained:
“A couple of years ago, a contestant unintentionally wagered a monetary amount that used numerical values coopted by white supremacist groups and, since the total didn’t affect the outcome of the game, ‘Jeopardy!’ digitally altered the numbers in the version that aired.”
The letter demanded that the show publicly condemn Donohue’s actions, adding:
“We hope to see changes made so that future mistakes of this magnitude never make it on air.”
Based on Donohue’s bragging habits and how profusely he condemned white supremacy, we think it’s safe to say he’s not a white supremacist. Still, the show’s production team definitely should have edited that gesture out (or more specifically, their S&P team AKA legal) — the last thing we want is for actual white supremacists to think someone’s giving them a shout out on TV! Especially after countless Trump supporters have been caught with their own dog whistles…
What do U think about this one, Perezcious readers?
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