On Monday, social media turned against Jeopardy! for the first time in months. The popular quiz show featured a medical question with an answer that is reportedly false — not to mention offensive. Viewers began tweeting at the show immediately to demand an apology for making light of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS).
Guest host Savannah Guthrie read the answer: "Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome is also known as Grinch Syndrome because this organ is too small." The correct question was "What is the heart?" However, viewers were not amused with this Dr. Seuss reference. According to a report by MyHeart.net, POTS does not actually stem from the heart being physically too small. Rather it is a condition that affects the flow of blood through the body, which can cause dizziness, elevated heart rate, extreme fatigue and lightheadedness.
Many sufferers from the syndrome and their advocates complained that the Jeopardy! question trivialized their illness by comparing it to a children's cartoon, while also disseminating false information about it. Some also noted that this is extremely poor timing since POTS diagnoses are on the rise. Doctors have reported an uptick in the syndrome since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Tuesday afternoon, Jeopardy! responded to the backlash on social media, saying in a statement, "Yesterday’s program included a clue about postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). After hearing from the community, we found we used an outdated and inaccurate term for this disorder, and we apologize." Here is a look at what people are saying about the quiz show's description of POTS.
This appeared on Jeopardy tonight. Grinch syndrome is an offensive term. Can you imagine Jeopardy making light of cancer or MS patients with a "funny" name for their debilitating health condition? Not acceptable. We'd love to see real questions about the autonomic nervous system. pic.twitter.com/kqetij1Jwx— Dysautonomia Intl. (@Dysautonomia) June 22, 2021
Non-profit organization Dysautonomia International called on Jeopardy! to "do better" following the "Grinch" joke. They even accused the term of being misogynistic.prevnext
my heart is normal sized!!!!!!! (don’t listen to my exes or jeopardy)— blazy susan (@kvz93) June 22, 2021
Sufferers who have recently learned about POTS themselves said that it was a shame to see a rare mention of the syndrome on TV go so wrong.prevnext
Behind the Science
For some viewers, the real surprise of this controversy was that Jeopardy! seemed to be incorrect about the science itself. For a show so dedicated to objective knowledge, this was even more shocking than a lapse insensitivity.prevnext
It took 10 yrs of blank stares & unfilled anti-depressant scripts for me to get my hyper-#POTS diagnosis. While I'm sorry patients with #longcovid are experiencing dysautonomia, I'm glad it's getting more attention and more docs are being trained about it. This vid was excellent!— Beatrix Louise (@BeazLouise) June 14, 2021
Many critics were also surprised by the timing since the whole reason POTS has been in the headlines lately is because of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. Many sufferers of "long COVID" are finding themselves with the syndrome and looking for help.prevnext
Yeah this needs to be addressed. It’s very inaccurate and offensive. As someone with POTS this makes me very angry tbh. Do better jeopardy, do better. https://t.co/f1j0sUdtkP— 🌧️🌱☀️🍞🌸🌼Citana (@madameofdemise) June 22, 2021
Users continued tagging Jeopardy! and Guthrie in their tweets well into Tuesday morning, hoping for an apology and a comment on the true nature of POTS.prevnext
I am not disputing POTS was once referred to as Grinch Syndrome. My issue is that POTS isn't caused by having a small heart. There is enough misinformation in the world already, the last thing we need is Jeopardy spreading more.— Jared Smith (@jaredsv2) June 22, 2021
I’ve lived with POTS for almost 20 years and have never heard of it being called grinch syndrome. And I don’t have an organ that is too small. Usually I’m learning things from Jeopardy but it seems like you still have some things to learn..— Mito Girl (@LIVINwithMITO) June 22, 2021
Some Jeopardy! defenders argued that "Grinch Syndrome" was an all right term to use since it has been prevalent in the past, but others disagreed. Some said they had been treated for POTS for years without hearing the term.prevnext
@Jeopardy just lost all credibility with this offensive and incorrect question. You owe millions of people an apology. @SavannahGuthrie please apologize for your role. #neisvoid #dysautonomia https://t.co/tLYfQUPvQ7— Mena🦅 (@chronicMena) June 22, 2021
Finally, some viewers wrote that they were now questioning the credibility of Jeopardy! in general following this lapse in judgment.prev