'Jeopardy!' Stirs Outrage on Social Media After Denying Contestant's Controversial Answer

Jeopardy! is at the center of a new controversy after a contestant was told she gave the wrong answer when she said the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem is in Palestine. Twitter users were shocked by the moment, as Bethlehem is internationally recognized as a part of Palestine by the countries that recognize the State of Palestine as its own country. However, host Alex Trebek said the correct answer was Israel.

Friday's episode included a category called "Where's that Church?" which featured clues describing historic churches. One clue read "Built in the 300s A.D., the Church of the Nativity," referring to the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Contestant Katie Needle replied Palestine, but the Jeopardy! judges did not accept this answer. Instead, they accepted Jack McGuire's answer, Israel.

The Church of Nativity is a World Heritage Site, located in Bethlehem. The city is located in West Bank, which many countries recognize as part of Palestine. The site is popular with Christian pilgrims and tourists, who visit from around the world during important Christian holidays. Israel controls the area with military checkpoints and Jewish settlements, considered illegal under international law, notes CNN.

The State of Palestine is recognized by 138 of the 193 United Nations members. It is not recognized by Israel, the U.S., the U.K., Switzerland, Canada, South Korea, Mexico, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and most members of the European Union.

Jeopardy! producers have not commented on the controversy, but hundreds of viewers have been left in shock.

"What happened is inexcusable," Palestinian writer Omar Ghraieb told Al Jazeera. "Jeopardy! should apologise and give a clear explanation. This shouldn't just pass calmly and be forgotten."

Zogby Analytics pollster James Zogby called the incident "an insult to history, reality, the thousands of oppressed Palestinians of Bethlehem."

"This just shows how normalised the occupation and cleansing of the Palestinian people from the historical record has become," Imraan Siddiqi, executive director of Council of American Islamic Relations Arizona chapter, told Al Jazeera.

"Apparently [Jeopardy] had a question today on The Church of the Nativity and when the contestant answered 'Palestine,' it was deemed incorrect and the next contestant said 'Israel' and it was counted as correct," journalist Deanna Othman tweeted. "[Jeopardy] please explain."

"Unacceptable!!" Omar Baddar, deputy director at the Arab American Institute, tweeted. "Bethlehem is in the Palestinian territories which Israel illegally occupies (Katie Needle got the correct answer & was robbed). [Jeopardy] owes an apology for endorsing Israel's universally-condemned illegal takeover of Palestinian lands."


The controversy comes as Jeopardy! is also getting attention for the primetime Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time tournament. The tournament is airing on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Photo credit: Ben Hider/Getty Images