Ken Jennings Under Fire Again After "Incredibly Unfair" Ruling on "Jeopardy!"
Viewers said that one recent contestant wasn't given a fair shake.
Typically, there's only one correct answer to questions on Jeopardy! Contestants get wiggle room when it comes to pronunciation and judges sometimes allow for minor deviations, but beyond that, the ruling is pretty clear. However, former champ Ken Jennings—who's back at the hosting helm—caught some flak for a recent ruling, which fans deemed "incredibly unfair." Read on to find out why viewers are up in arms.
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Jennings approved a contestant's response after he rephrased it.
On the March 13 episode, Stephen Webb, the then-four-day reigning champ, was taking on two new contestants, Karen Rittenbach and Roy Camara.
The drama started when Webb buzzed in to answer a question from the "Blossom" category, Newsweek reported. The clue asked which flower the U.S. Botanic Garden said had a "powerful stink" when it "opened in peak bloom on Aug. 9, 2022." Webb responded with, "Is that the corpse blossom? What's the corpse blossom, corpse flower?"
Jennings approved Webb's response, confirming that it was "the infamous corpse flower." In the moment, the ruling didn't cause too much of a fuss—but later in the game, contestants were quick to point out an apparent double standard.
Rittenbach was ruled incorrect.
Rittenbach didn't have as much luck when she buzzed in to respond to a clue in the "Call Me 'Cat'" category, per Newsweek.
"This No. 1 hit has haunted fathers since 1974 as they watch time pass too quickly as their sons grow up," the question read. Rittenbach responded with ,"What's 'Cat's Cradle'?"—coming close but not quite nailing the folk song by Harry Chapin.
She tried to rephrase to the correct "What's 'Cat's in the Cradle'?" but Jennings had already ruled that her answer was incorrect. Unlike Webb, she didn't end up with any money.
"I'm sorry, Karen, I'd already ruled against you by the time you corrected yourself," Jennings explained.
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Twitter was flooded with furious fans.
Fans couldn't believe that Jennings would award points to Webb but not to Rittenbach. "'Sorry Karen, only Stephen gets to ramble off 3 different answers.' -Ken," one fan wrote on Twitter.
Another noted the time Jennings took to respond to each contestant. "What's up with Ken Jennings so quick with the 'no' for Karen, but Stephen gets 3 tries for the correct answer?" they wrote.
Other viewers said that Jennings was simply following the game's protocol: Contestants only have until the host makes the ruling to correct their answers.
"Sometimes answers aren't wrong, but not specific enough, and contestants are allowed to add specificity. Stephen said 'corpse blossom', and then without pausing, and before Ken ruled, modified to 'corpse flower,'" one fan wrote on Twitter. "Karen, [on the other hand], paused, and Ken ruled before she revised her answer."
Still, some felt the situation was questionable. "That does seem incredibly unfair and borderline arbitrary depending on how willing the host is to interject," another Twitter user quipped. "You should be given the allotted amount of time to come up with one answer and judged on your 1st response, the way virtually every other game show does it."
A similar situation played out last year.
Some were in Jennings' camp, arguing that he is "good at managing the moment" and determining if a contestant has completed their answer.
But this isn't the first time that Jennings has come under fire for seemingly favoring a contestant. In Sept. 2022, fans were up in arms when he accepted a questionable answer from Luigi de Guzman, the reigning champ at the time.
As People reported, de Guzman was given the clue "Here's a typical 19th-century landscape by this British painter," to which he responded, "Who is Constant?" Jennings asked him to say his answer again, and de Guzman said, "Sorry. Constable. Who is Constable?" in reference to artist John Constable.
As in the recent episode, de Guzman's female competitor, Harriet Wagner, didn't get the same opportunity. When responding to a clue about a fantasy writer born in Berkeley, California, Wagner said, "Who is Angela Le Guin—sorry, Ursula Le Guin." She was ruled incorrect, and de Guzman then buzzed in and claimed the $2,000.
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Jennings gave the same explanation to Wagner.
Similar to the situation on the more recent episode, Jennings noted that he'd made the call before Wagner corrected to "Ursula."
"Yes, Harriet, you remembered that her name was Ursula, but I had already begun ruling against you when you began correcting yourself," Jennings said.
Jeopardy! fans took issue with his explanation, calling the ruling "inconsistent," "unfair," and even misogynistic. However, Wagner actually responded after the drama and stood up for Jennings.
"Leave Ken alone!!!! 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," she tweeted. De Guzman also chimed in, and commended Wagner for her "grace."