Following the recent death of longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek—who succumbed to pancreatic cancer in early November, the show’s producers announced contestant Ken Jennings will act as interim host when new episode taping begins on November 30.
But the announcement has ignited renewed outrage over an inflammatory, ableist tweet published by Jennings back in 2014.
In it, Jennings posted:
“Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair.”
Jennings became a central figure in the show’s history after he put together the longest winning streak ever in 2004, when he secured 74 consecutive non-tournament wins and netted $2,520,700 in award cash.
Earlier this year, he won the “Jeopardy: The Greatest of All Time” tournament as well.
With all those accolades under his belt, Jennings was the apparent first choice as producers navigated the uncertain future of Jeopardy! after Trebek. The late host helmed the podium for 36 years.
Executive producer Mike Richards had this to say about the show’s next steps:
“Alex believed in the importance of Jeopardy! and always said that he wanted the show to go on after him.”
“We will honor Alex’s legacy by continuing to produce the game he loved with smart contestants and challenging clues. By bringing in familiar guest hosts for the foreseeable future, our goal is to create a sense of community and continuity for our viewers.”
But as for Jennings’ ability to “create a sense of community,” people across Twitter weren’t holding their breath.
People were outraged by Jennings’ old tweet—which he had never deleted or apologized for—and called him out for it.
What an absolutely disgusting thing to say.
— Dana Baker wears a mask 😷 (@DanaBaker) April 21, 2018
And I thought you were intelligent. Apparently, I was greatly mistaken.
— Loquacious Nightowl (@lowliewise) April 22, 2018
I’ll take “Ableist Statements” for 200, Alex.
— Lisa Marie Walters (@TheLisaWalters) April 23, 2018
I’m just wondering what went through your mind as you typed and tweeted that horrible statement. Why would you say something so stupid and cruel?
— JaimieSeaton Wear a F-ing Mask! (@JaimieSeaton) April 22, 2018
What an awful thing to say. You may be “intelligent” but you’re terribly ignorant and narrow-minded. #HotPersonInAWheelchair
— saudade 🌬️🍂🌧️☔#BLM (@RainWalkWithMe) April 22, 2018
Plenty of people were glad to offer themselves as proof that being “hot” and wheelchair bound was not the saddest thing in the world.
Just in case you might need to know: I was hot in 2014 and I’m hot now. I’ve used a wheelchair for over a year now. There’s nothing sad about it. #DisabilityIsNotTragedy
— Vikki (she/her) 👩🏻🦼🏳️🌈🧚🏻♀️🧜🏻♀️🐲🦄 (@vix_the_star) November 25, 2020
It’s a walker today, but I’m smiling. Your pity and cruel words say more about your own lack of strength than it does about anything else. pic.twitter.com/SjHxF0Y6yB
— Hazel Roots SELLS NUDES?➡️ ONLYFANS TOP 6% (@hazelrootslive) November 25, 2020
You might wanna check yourself. I’m in a wheelchair for life and I’m enjoying every second of it. There is NOTHING wrong with being in a wheelchair. You don’t know the first thing about being in a wheelchair. You make me sick. Someone needs to give you a reality check.
— noneofyabusiness (@htownproud1996) January 15, 2020
Some people vowed to boycott a Jennings hosted Jeopardy!.
Wow, you’re off to a bad start. I’ve watched Jeopardy since its original incarnation in the 60s. I won’t be watching it again until there’s a permanent host who is more decent than you.
— Ted Russell 🌊🌊🍁🌲🦞🇺🇸🇺🇸 (@samiam1955) November 24, 2020
Well, guess I’m not watching Jeopardy until they find a permanent host that isn’t you! Nothing sadder than missing out on your favorite game show because the temporary host is a bigot who won’t delete their old tweets.
— Alonso Velez (@ariesaav) November 25, 2020
Despite the backlash, Jennings had still not deleted the 6-year-old tweet nor offered a public apology each time the issue was raised.
He did, however, post a tweet claiming he apologized to individuals affected by his post.
I never did a public flogging thing for this but I did apologize personally to angry/hurt people who reached out personally. it was a joke so inept that it meant something very different in my head & I regret the ableist plain reading of it!
— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) April 20, 2018
But people let him know at the time why his supposed private apologies were not enough as well as challenging his claim his original post was an innocent joke that people simply weren’t getting.
When your offense is public, your meal culpa can’t be private. Especially because this tweet still exists, is still stumbled across by people, and still doing harm.
— aprotim (@aprotim) April 22, 2018
I am very keen to hear what it was you intended with that joke that wasn’t the awful thing we all read into it…
— Captain Corvid (@MoshiMoshiMike) April 22, 2018
What else could you possibly have meant by it?
— Rebecca Major (@BecMajor) April 22, 2018
dude, you’ve got 285k followers – it’s not a public flogging to recognize to your huge audience that you made a terribly ableist joke that was way out of line. and you sure didn’t apologize to me – i’m pretty hard to miss, first comment after the tweet in question.
— ace tilton ratcliff ♿️ (@MortuaryReport) April 20, 2018
Seems like when I do harm in public I should have to own it the same way it went out. How about you?
— Carolyn Ostrander (@c_ostrander) April 22, 2018
It is clearer that your EQ < IQ. Your emotional range is limited, and suggests narcissism, as evidenced by your non-apology. pic.twitter.com/xkAMGY6aRC
— MoronicArts.com * (@JeniRizio) April 23, 2018
Did you really? I was one of those people. Somehow I missed it.
— P. F. Anderson is recovering … slowly (@pfanderson) April 22, 2018
As a wheelchair user, I fail to see a ‘joke’ or even attempt joke it comes off as simply a horrible thing to say. And I also fail to see an actual apology here beyond the excuses. Saying ‘I’m sorry’ shouldn’t be difficult, my one year old nephew manages it with more sincerity
— JJ ♿🌈 (@blu_eyed_demon) November 25, 2020
Finally, after over six years and numerous drubbings, Jennings deleted the offending tweet sometime before Wednesday afternoon, November 25, 2020.
He FINALLY deleted it, yesterday.
— Cathey Thomas (@Cathey_Thomas) November 25, 2020
It’s unclear if an apology or public statement is forthcoming.
Jennings will be one of many temporary hosts until a permanent replacement for Trebek is identified.