Hundreds of former Jeopardy! contestants publicly oppose the game show's decision to instate Dr. Mehmet Oz as a two-week guest host. As Oz stepped in to fill the role left vacant by the late Alex Trebek on Monday, more than 500 past contestants signed a letter to Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards stating that inviting the TV personality as guest host "is a slap in the face to all involved."
The letter was initially published on Medium.com last month after Jeopardy! unveiled the list of upcoming guest hosts, including Anderson Cooper, Savannah Guthrie, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Addressed the game show's executive producer, the contestants (you can see the full list of signatories by clicking here) said that while it "has been exciting" to see the "diversity of talent expand to the guest host pool" over recent weeks, the same cannot be said for Oz. The contestant wrote that while "there is very little that a large group of Jeopardy! contestants can agree upon," when they "heard that Dr. Mehmet Oz was slated to be a guest host, agreement came quickly — we were opposed."
The letter went on to note that while they understand "that first and foremost, Jeopardy! is a television show, and ratings are important," Oz "stands in opposition to everything that Jeopardy! stands for." The letter said the game show is one "that values facts and knowledge." Still, throughout his decades-long TV career, Oz has "used his authority as a doctor to push harmful ideas onto the American public, in stark contrast with his oath to first do no harm." The contestants listed several examples, including "promoting supplements that do nothing, legitimizing gay conversion therapy…dangerous 'cures' for autism, and, most recently, the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19."
They said "none of these things is backed by any scientific fact" and pointed out that his ideas even led to a group of doctors sending a letter to Columbia University in 2015 asking for Oz's dismissal from the medical school's faculty. The former contestants questioned, "what kind of message does this send to the LGBTQ+ and autistic contestants and viewers of Jeopardy!?" The essay said Oz "represents what has become a dubious trend in America: the elevation of the credentialed talking head at the expense of academic rigor and consensus."
"Jeopardy! is known for being incredibly rigorous; a well-deserved reputation," the letter concluded. "As contestants, we've all seen what happens behind the scenes if there's any doubt about a question. We've seen writers and judges frantically cross-reference answers in real-time to make sure that the facts are accurate. To then invite Dr. Oz to guest-host is a slap in the face to all involved."
Although it was published a month ago, the letter has gained increased focus and support from Jeopardy! viewers following Oz's Jeopardy! debut Monday night. During the episode, backlash to his guest-hosting role became so great that "Boycott Jeopardy!" began trending on Twitter. At this time, neither Oz nor the show has addressed the renewed criticism.