Jeopardy! is facing criticism this week over a hand gesture used by one of its recent contestants, after a Medium post reportedly signed by more than 500 former contestants began circulating online. Specifically, the open letter calls out recent three-time champion Kelly Donohue for using a hand gesture associated with white supremacists during one of his contestant introductions. (It also criticizes him for answering a question on an earlier episode with an answer containing a word considered a slur for the Roma people, which was noted at the time by guest host Anderson Cooper.) And while Donohue has stated that he was simply showing his number of wins by flashing the last three fingers of his right hand—as he had with one and two raised fingers on previous episodes—the fact that he used those specific fingers, in a hand-symbol associated with both the Three Percenters group and wider white supremacist movements, and that the show allowed the gesture to be broadcast, has come under criticism from the group.
To address Donohue specifically, the letter notes that his now-deleted initial response to questions about the gesture contained no apology or condemnation of white supremacy—something he addressed with a post on social media today, in which he stated the following:
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.
Beyond Don0hue, though, the letter also calls out Jeopardy! and its producers for not recognizing and editing out the gesture, as it has in the past. (They specifically cited the case in which a contestant, for reportedly unrelated reasons, wagered $1488—well known as a neo-Nazi reference point online—and had their bet digitally altered with a slightly different wager.) The letter-writers add:
During other tapings of “Jeopardy!” episodes, changes have been made to avoid negative messaging making it to air. On more than one occasion, contestants have made gestures during their introductions that were seen as undesirable for broadcast and were asked by the production team to reshoot the footage without the gesture…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.
So far, no one involved in the production of Jeopardy! has responded to the letter.