VIDEO Was this 12-year-old on Kids Jeopardy cheated out of $3,000?

Thomas Hurley Jeopardy
We all make spelling mistakes… They just generally don’t cost us as much as one did for 12-year-old Thomas Hurley III, whose final answer on Kids Jeopardy was invalidated because of a misplaced letter.

The controversial call came when Hurley answered “What is the Emanciptation Proclamation” in response to the question “Abraham Lincoln called this document, which took effect in 1863, ‘a fit and necessary way measure.'” Technically speaking, Hurley’s answer was correct. However, host Alex Trebek told the eighth-grade student the judges disapproved on grounds of the spelling.

“Well, because he misspelled it badly… You put a ‘p’ in there. That’s unfortunate. The judges are ruling against you,” Trebek said.

Many viewers cried foul saying Trebek unnecessarily insulted the young player. Some pointed out that one misplaced letter doesn’t mean Hurley “misspelled it badly.” Others noted the adult Jeopardy host didn’t seem to know how to spell the word, either: Trebek said Hurley misspelled “emancipation” based on a “p.” The wrongful letter was actually the first “t.”

Hurley also stood up for himself, saying he was offended by the way it was handled.

“I was pretty upset that I was cheated out of the final Jeopardy question. It was just a spelling error,” Hurley told his hometown newspaper, Danbury NewsTimes. Hurley reportedly also said he wasn’t going to watch the show any more.

In response to the criticism, producers from Jeopardy released a statement to Huffington Post.

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.

Even though Hurley’s spelling error cost him the $3,000 he wagered, the correct spelling/answer still wouldn’t have won him the tournament. Although losing is never fun, it seems that his parents could have used it as a more teachable moment to show their preteen son that is one aspect of competition. Plus, he still got a trip to California and prize money out of it.

Do you think Jeopardy judges were fair with their decision?

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  • heyBale

    I watched this show.
    There is another factor possibly in play here not mentioned in the article… The youngster in question in his interview portion explained how he would like to host Jeopardy someday and is ready to take Alex’s job. Little bit of sass from the boy that perhaps rubbed Trebek the wrong way.

    And if I recall dont they allow slight spelling errors with the adults? thought they did. If so, they really took to nailing this kid. Dont blame him for being sour to it now seeing how he was ridiculed on national TV over what amounts to a plate of beans.

    • Nope

      Alex doesn’t make the rulings on the answers. And yes, you do have to spell it correctly.

    • Jillo

      They have! I have seen it with the adults.

  • Sweet Venom

    Kid was ripped off.

  • Oh please.

    First of all, Alex Trebek doesn’t make the decisions so blaming him is ridiculous. Second of all, the kid would have lost anyway and ended up in second place even if his answer was allowed. Another contestant (the winner) was already way ahead of him.

    Third of all, and most importantly in my opinion, is this kid acted like a pouty brat at the end of the show and like a poor loser. He’s twelve, not 6 years old, his parents should have taught him about losing gracefully by now. Especially on national television! I would have been embarrassed if I were his mother with his bratty attitude, like dude you were on Jeopardy! Most kids would have been thrilled just to get on, do you know how many rounds of kids they go through before they pick the contestants? Like go home and bitch about it, don’t contact the media to complain.

    And if you’re smart enough at 12 to get on Kids Jeopardy, I think proper spelling isn’t an unfair thing to expect from contestants.

    • Jillo

      Have you ever been 12? Cause I can tell you….being on tv and being told you got the answer wrong and knowing you got it “right” would be difficult for me and I am 45. You have a lot of nerve to say that this is the parents fault. Get a life or a kid because you clearly don’t have either!

      • Oh please.

        Actually, yes I have been twelve and by then my parents taught me to lose graciously. Not to stand there with my arms folded with a bratty look on my face, on national television, simply because things didn’t go my way. And I DO blame his parents, these are the same types of parents that end up calling their 19 year old’s college professor to complain about the grade they gave their special snowflake child. The same types of parents that threaten to sue the school if there child isn’t picked for the soccer team. Part of raising a child is teaching them to lose with dignity and not feel as though they are entitled to everything. Sometimes life is unfair (even though in this instance it wasn’t unfair, I looked up the rules you DO need to spell your answer correctly!)

        This is a huge problem with this generation and future generations, they’re being raised to feel entitled to everything. These children are being set up to be completely incapable of dealing with life and disappointment. Because life does not always go your way. Babying a 12 year old does nothing to teach or help him. It’s lazy parenting. I don’t know how many 12 year olds YOU know but if you think his behavior at the end of the show is acceptable, that’s pathetic. He should have been congratulating his fellow contestant that rightfully won, not standing there arms folded.

        And as a matter of fact, I do have a child and I guarantee you he will not be raised to act like an entitled brat, he will be aware that sometimes he will lose and sometimes he will win. And even if he feels slighted he will still act with dignity and class, not like a 3 year old that looks like he’s about to throw a tantrum. .

        • JustSayin

          That. Was. Awesome.


          Seriously though, that was probably the most right on thing I’ve ever read in the comments section of anything.

        • Jillo

          I honestly do not think that this kid acted bratty or entitled. He was stunned, he was embarrased. He is 12. I have been embarrased and just stood there mortified. Why are you slamming this kid or his parents after “viewing” a 15 second clip. You have no right to judge him or his parents. I had no right to judge you based on your comments. I am sorry for doing so, it wasn’t right but I was upset. Does that mean that I am a brat or entitled or does it mean that I am human and made a mistake? Have your opinion about the situation but don’t throw is kid under the bus because he is human and had real feelings.

  • Nikki

    The real problem with all of it is that we live in a world now where “everyone’s a winner.” No. Everyone isn’t a winner. Sometimes you lose, and you need to lose gracefully, not rant and rave because you made a careless error. If this was on a test, I can assure you (at least based on my past experience in school) that partial credit would be taken off because, let’s face it, it isn’t right. This answer isn’t correct. Since he wasn’t going to win anyways, maybe he should blame himself instead of everyone else. He missed the question. He lost. Get over it.

    • Jillo

      This just pisses me off. First of all the kid isn’t the one making a big deal of this. His parents didn’t call the press to complain. Was he upset? Heck yeah…..I felt awful for this kid. He held it together he didn’t throw a tantrum his parents didn’t go off on the show. They smiled, the clapped, they went home. Why are you judging the kid?

      • BEBE

        He’s saying he was “cheated”.

    • BEBE


  • Emily

    What a cry-baby. His mother should be ashamed of herself for not letting this go and thus fanning the flames. The way he spelled “emancipation” completely changes the pronunciation of the word. I could allow him a little grace because of nerves if say, he spelled the word “emancepation”. But “emanciptation” is not a word!
    I also love how this kid has gotten all of the attention and not the actual winner.

    • Katie

      I agree, How would this be respectful to the boy who knew the right answer and knew how to spell it correctly. This is just showing todays youth that you don’t have to be right, you only have to be close enough. If people want to give this kid credit for a misspelled mispronounced word then the little girl should get credit to. Maybe she misspelled it to. Maybe she spells emancipation proclamation s-e-c-o-n-d a-m-e-n-d-m-e-n-t. What is fair for one is fair for another.

  • bailey

    What I find disappointing is not what happened to him on Jeopardy, but how damn quick a bunch of full grown adults are calling this kid, still a child, a bunch of names like bratty, entitled, crybaby.. Holy moly. He is 12, a child ffs, and all people can do is call him names? Really?? Grow up you freaking bullies.