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?