Social media howls after errant ‘t’ spells loss for 12 year old on Jeopardy

Posted at 8:40 AM, Aug 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-05 10:40:52-04

By Ed Payne and Dave Alsup

(CNN) — I’ll take saddest Jeopardy misspelling ever for $3,000, Alex.

Social media is still howling after last week’s perceived slight of eighth grader Thomas Hurley III and his misspelling of “Emancipation” during Kids Week on “Jeopardy!”

Thomas knew the answer to the Final Jeopardy question: Abraham Lincoln called this document, which took effect in 1863, “a fit and necessary war measure.”

But the 12-year-old Connecticut boy added an extra “t” to his answer: emanciptation proclamation.

Host Alex Trebek said Thomas “misspelled it badly.”

“That’s unfortunate,” he said. “The judges are ruling against you.”

Thomas, who was in second place with $9,600 in winnings, had wagered $3,000 on the answer. He hung his head.

“The thing that bothered me most was the way Alex Trebek and the producers treated my son. They were kind of smug,” his father, Thomas Hurley II, told CNN on Sunday night. “It’s a kids’ tournament! Everyone knew what he meant.”

The show was recorded in February, but aired Wednesday.

Hurley said his son “was barely holding it together, he was almost in tears. He had to relive it on Wednesday.”

Jeopardy producers stood by their decision.

“If Jeopardy! were to give credit for an incorrect response (however minor), the show would effectively penalize the other players. We love presenting young people as contestants on our show, and make every effort to be fair and consistent in their treatment.”

Right or wrong, the younger Hurley still would not have won.

He ran into a buzz saw of a competitor in Skyler Hornback, who set the all-time record for kids with $66,600. Skyler’s haul was also the third-largest one-day total in the game’s history.

For placing second, Thomas took home $2,000.

The Internet was not amused.

“I used to love Jeopardy, but how Alex treated that kid and embarrassed him was uncalled for,” Luke Tran said in a post on the Jeopardy! Facebook page. “He called him out on his spelling saying it was badly misspelled when it wasn’t that badly misspelled it was just misspelled slightly.”

Some questioned the point of the game show.

“Jeopardy is not a spelling bee game and frankly before Alex Trebek or the judges penalize this boy for not spelling a word correctly then Alex trebek needs too explain too the contestants that spelling matters in the final around,” Ash Cruz Rios-James also said on Facebook.

A healthy back-and-forth ensued with those who found the show made the right call.

“Bravo Jeopardy!” said David Sneen on Twitter. “If you were to give credit for a misspelled answer…how close would the spelling need to be?”

Facebook user Jan Manire put it in perspective: “Am sorry Thomas feels that he was ‘cheated’ because of misspelling. Even if the answer had been allowed, he still would have been in second place and won $2,000, which is what he won.”

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