Longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek died in November 2020 following a battle with pancreatic cancer. Following his passing, there was much discussion about who would carry the torch as the next host of the quiz show. Many floated the idea of Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings taking over for Trebek, especially as he is a consulting producer on the program. However, amidst the discussion about Jennings, many of the Jeopardy! champion's past controversies and scandals have since resurfaced, making fans wonder whether that will factor into how the show decides on Trebek's replacement. While it was previously reported that Jeopardy! producer Mike Richards would be the next permanent host, he stepped down after his own scandals resurfaced and was later fired altogether from his position as a producer. So, the search for Trebek's official successor continues.
During the initial discussion about who would take over for Trebek, numerous controversial moments revolving around Jennings have resurfaced. More specifically, several tweets that the Jeopardy! champion penned over the years have resurfaced, causing Jennings to speak out and apologize for his words. Not only have controversies from years past resurfaced, but Jennings was also recently involved with the "Bean Dad" scandal that occurred in early January (the "Bean Dad" is John Roderick, who co-hosts the Omnibus podcast with Jennings). All of these controversies resurfaced as Jennings took on guest-hosting duties on Jeopardy! in January 2021.
Considering that Jennings has been involved in his fair share of controversial moments in the past, it's worth taking a look back at those scandalous moments in question. From his Star Wars fan tweet to his connection to the "Bean Dad" drama, here is everything that the Jeopardy! champion has been involved in over the years.
Resurfaced Wheelchair Tweet
Back in 2014, Jennings wrote on Twitter, "Nothing is sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair." The post has since been deleted. Understandably, when the tweet resurfaced, the 46-year-old was instantly met with backlash. He did address the topic in 2018 when an individual quote-tweeted the message and added, "I don't believe Ken Jennings ever apologized for it and now I'm mad all over again." Jennings responded, "I never did a public flogging thing for this but I did apologize personally to angry/hurt people who reached out personally." He added that it was a "joke" at the time and that "it meant something very different in my head and I regret the ableist plan reading of it!"prevnext
Jennings' Connection To 'Bean Dad'
Extremely jealous and annoyed that my podcast co-host is going to be a dictionary entry and I never will.— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) January 3, 2021
If this reassures anyone, I personally know John to be (a) a loving and attentive dad who (b) tells heightened-for-effect stories about his own irascibility on like ten podcasts a week. This site is so dumb.— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) January 3, 2021
The "Bean Dad" controversy was one of the first ones to emerge in 2021. It involved John Roderick writing a 23-tweet-long story about his hungry daughter's attempt to open a can of beans. When "Bean Dad" began trending on Twitter, Jennings spoke out to defend his Omnibus co-host, writing that he is a "loving and attentive dad." He also said that Roderick likes to tell "heightened-for-effect stories about his own irascibility on like ten podcasts a week." Jennings also dubbed Twitter and the backlash to Roderick as "so dumb."prevnext
Replacing Alex Trebek?
While not a major controversy, Jennings did find himself at the center of the conversation when he was brought on to the Jeopardy! family as a consulting producer back in mid-2020. Some speculated that the move was a "tryout" for Jennings. But, Mike Richards, Jeopardy!'s executive producer, clarified that bringing on Jennings did not mean that he would be the automatic replacement for Trebek.prevnext
Offensive 'Stars Wars' Fan Tweet
It can't be a good sign that every fan who has seen the new Star Wars movie died shortly thereafter.— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) November 10, 2015
In November 2015, he penned a tweet that was seemingly in reference to Daniel Fleetwood, a terminally ill Star Wars fan who got an advanced screening of the latest installment shortly before his death. According to Time, Jennings wrote, "It can't be a good sign that every fan who has seen the new Star Wars movie died shortly thereafter." It didn't take long before his tweet was met with a bevy of criticism from other Twitter users.prevnext
Hey, I just wanted to own up to the fact that over the years on Twitter, I've definitely tweeted some unartful and insensitive things. Sometimes they worked as jokes in my head and I was dismayed to see how they read on screen. 1/x— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) December 30, 2020
In late December, Jennings did issue an apology for his past, inappropriate tweets. He wrote on Twitter, "I just wanted to own up to the fact that over the years on Twitter, I've definitely tweeted some unartful and insensitive things. Sometimes they worked as jokes in my head and I was dismayed to see how they read on screen. In the past, I'd usually leave bad tweets up just so they could be dunked on. At least that way they could lead to smart replies and even advocacy. Deleting them felt like whitewashing a mistake."
"But I think that practice may have given the impression I stand by every failed joke I've ever posted here. Not at all!" Jennings continued. "Sometimes I said dumb things in a dumb way and I want to apologize to people who were (rightfully!) offended. It wasn't my intention to hurt anyone, but that doesn't matter: I screwed up, and I'm truly sorry. If 2020 has taught us anything, it's that we should be kinder to one another. I look forward to heading into 2021 with that in mind."prevnext
His Current Role
Ken Jennings steps up to the lectern today as our first guest host – but not before honoring Alex. pic.twitter.com/uOzQ3UfqmN— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) January 12, 2021
Even though he has some controversial moments from his past, Jennings was chosen as the first guest host of Jeopardy! following Trebek's death. In his opening remarks, the champion appeared to get choked up as he spoke about the former host of the show. He explained, "Sharing the stage with Alex Trebek was one of the greatest honors of my life. Like all Jeopardy! fans, I miss Alex very much."prevnext
After Richards was fired from the show, there was renewed speculation into who would be the permanent host of the quiz show. Jeopardy shared that they would need more time to figure out who would be taking on that role. In the meantime, both Mayim Bialik and Jennings were tapped to be guest hosts through the end of the year. Jennings' stint begins on Monday, Nov. 8, which also marks the one-year anniversary of Trebek's passing.prevnext
One year after Alex Trebek’s passing, Ken Jennings reflects on what Alex meant to him and the special gift he received from Alex’s wife, Jean.
We miss you every day, Alex. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/6hQkM4e4OH— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) November 8, 2021
Even though Jennings was asked to step in as a guest host, it's still unlikely that he would be tapped for the full-time position. In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that while Jennings was a frontrunner, he will likely be passed over because of these past controversies. However, since an official announcement has not been made yet regarding the hosting position, anything could happen.prev