Not long after Jeopardy! fans went on the offensive in railing against TV personality Dr. Oz serving as a guest judge in the wake of Alex Trebek's death last year, another semi-controversy has sprouted surrounding recent champion Kelly Donohue. During his winning appearance on Tuesday's episode (taped earlier this year), Donohue flashed a hand symbol that many viewers suspected was the "OK" gesture that has been usurped by white supremacists, to the point where hundreds of former contestants wrote an open letter requesting that producers and Donohue himself condemn white supremacy outright. After his initial public denial was also slammed by fans, Donohue has shared a lengthier response.
Once again taking to Facebook, where he'd initially written his now-deleted response, Kelly Donohue offered a longer explanation and apology, while also defending the stance that he didn't actually do anything wrong, though he firmly understands the criticisms thrown his way. In his words:
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. 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.
As one can easily see in looking back at Kelly Donohue's previous episodes, he holds up one finger to indicate his first win, and the next episode shows him holding up two fingers to indicate his second win. He definitely could have picked three different fingers to hold up for his third win, to be sure, but Donohue claims the particular gesture he made was not at all an attempt to signify white supremacist views.
In his most recent Facebook post, Kelly Donohue explained why he deleted his first response to the backlash, which spoke more directly to accusations made against him, and not the concept of white supremacy at large. In his words:
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.
In the open letter penned by former Jeopardy! contestants, it was noted that the game show has long utilized post-filming edits and re-recorded bits in order to remove episode moments that might not have been wise to broadcast to millions of viewers. Those moments usually involve mispronunciations, sneezing, accidental cursing, and other less scandalous reasons, and the producers and editors didn't seem to think anything was askew with Kelly Donohue's hand gestures.
Kelly Donohue's longer reponse didn't address another criticism that the open letter noted, which was that he used an outdated slur in an answer regarding the Romani population. Granted, this point was also targeting Jeopardy! clue writers for having used the same slur in five different clues over the last two years.
With Anderson Cooper's guest-hosting stint coming to a close, quite a few more familiar faces are on the way to stand behind the iconic podium, including Big Bang Theory vet Mayim Bialik, Star Trek alum (and fan favorite choice) LeVar Burton, news journalist George Stephanopolis, morning TV personality Robin Roberts, sportscaster Joe Buck and financial journalist David Faber. It's presumed the guest-hosting fun will end when Jeopardy! reveals fan Ryan Reynolds to be the new host, but maybe that's just me.