“Jeopardy!” contestant Kelly Donohue maintains that he was not flashing a white power hand gesture on the popular game show following accusations from over 400 people.
During the Tuesday, April 27, episode of the series, winner Donohue “held his thumb and forefinger together with his other three fingers extended and palm facing inward, and he tapped his chest,” as described this week in a post on Medium that purportedly is from former “Jeopardy!” contestants. Backlash ensued almost instantly as many claimed the contestant was holding up an offensive hand gesture. But Donohue argued that wasn’t so and that he was just indicating his third win.
“I just wanted to clear something up about my recent appearances on ‘Jeopardy!’ the greatest game show of all time,'” Donohue wrote in a since-deleted Facebook post.
“Competing on ‘Jeopardy!’ was the thrill of a lifetime, and being a returning champion is something I’ll never forget. Many of the great champions of old had a little signature hello they would do on-screen when being introduced by Johnny Gilbert. I decided to count my victories,” he continued. Donohue goes on to explain that the gesture was “a 1. That’s a 2. That’s a 3. No more. No less.”
Aforementioned, Donohue’s apology comes after a group of 467 people claiming to be former “Jeopardy!” participants issued an open letter on Medium, Wednesday, April 28. The collective demanded an apology from the show’s producers for not spotting the contestant’s alleged hand sign. They claim it is used by white power groups, alt-right groups, and the anti-government Three Percenters.
“A recent contestant has caused concern among ‘Jeopardy!’ viewers for two separate occurrences, and we, as former contestants, feel the need to speak out against the messaging that these choices communicated — either intentionally or unintentionally — by the contestant Kelly Donohue and, implicitly by association, the producers of ‘Jeopardy!'” the post read.
“A couple of years ago, a contestant unintentionally wagered a monetary amount that used numerical values coopted by white supremacist groups and, since the total didn’t affect the outcome of the game, ‘Jeopardy!’ digitally altered the numbers in the version that aired,” the Medium letter claimed. “This should have been done in this case. Intentional or not, the burden was on the production team to catch the similarity to a hate symbol and make sure it didn’t end up on air.” The latter demanded “a statement and a disavowal of both of this week’s events.”
The letter concluded by stating, “We know that contestants sign morals and ethics-related agreements when they prepare to appear on the show, and we would ask the production team to evaluate this situation within that framework.”
Other allegations argued that Donahue “responded to a clue with a term for the Roma that is considered a slur” on Monday’s show. Amid the controversy, one critic asked the participant in the Facebook comment section why he had removed a banner from his social media page that featured a 1965 photo of singer Frank Sinatra throwing up an innocuous version of the gesture by signaling OK. Donahue did not respond to the user’s question.
The gesture as Donohue is being accused of using it entered the national discussion when Republican operative Zina Bash was accused of flashing it on live television on Sept. 4, 2018, as she sat behind then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh during his contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Bash, Kavanaugh’s former law clerk, denied there was any significance at all to her apparently first taking a text message and then forming her right hand into the gesture and holding it in the crook of her opposite arm in plain view in the background as cameras were fixed on Kavanaugh.
Representatives for the game show have not yet issued a statement on the Donohue matter.