'Jeopardy!' Producers Respond to Controversial Moment Fans Raged Over

Jeopardy producers have finally responded to a controversial moment last week when host Ken Jennings allowed one contestant to change his answer but stopped another contestant from doing the same. Many critics thought this was a moment of misogyny – perhaps unconscious – as Jennings allowed a male contestant to change his answer but stopped a woman from doing the same. However, executive producer Mike Davies and producer Sarah Foss felt that there was more to it than that.

The controversy came from an episode that aired on Wednesday, Sept. 14. First, Luigi de Guzman buzzed for the clue: "Here's a typical 19th-century landscape by this British painter" with "Who is Constant?" Jennings urged: "Say it again," and Guzman said: "Who is Constable?" This was correct, but later in the same episode contestant Harriet Wagner answered a clue about a sci-fi author by saing: "Who is Angelia LeGuin – sorry, Ursula LeGuin," but Jennings did not accept the hasty correction. Guzman ended up winning the game that night.

"Harriet, you remembered that her name was Ursula but I had already begun ruling against you when you began correcting yourself," Jennings explained during the broadcast. A few days later, Davies and Foss discussed this awkward moment on their podcast Inside Jeopardy. They explained that the situation was not as straightforward on set that day as it appeared in the episode.

"Luigi did initially respond in the Jeopardy! round, 'Who is Constant' to one of the clues. But Ken did not hear him, so Ken asked Luigi, 'Can you repeat that?' When Luigi repeated it he did change his answer to 'Constable.' And we made the ruling that he was correct," Foss explained. "It is in the rules that until the host rules you incorrect you can change your response. Just by Ken saying 'can you repeat that,' he generally didn't hear him so it was up to Luigi whether he wanted to keep the same response or change it. But that's why you'll see that moment in the game play out and that's why it happened."

Foss said that it was unfortunate that a comparable moment for Wagner came later in the same night. She said: "It certainly was a hard moment for us. Harriet responded 'Angela LeGuin,' Ken ruled her incorrect and she corrected herself after. This is one of those things we had to go back and check the timing."


Davies assured fans that the producers actually "went frame by frame" to ensure that Jennings had not made a mistake in either of these cases. He said that the recordings showed Jennings ruling Wagner's answer wrong 10 frames before she corrected herself. Finally, Foss said: "We want everyone to know we take time when these things happen and we make sure to make the best call possible."

It seems like Jeopardy is destined to remain a lightning rod for controversy as its new season gets underway. The series airs on weeknights at 7 p.m. ET in syndication. Check your local listings to find the right channel in your area.