Even if Thomas Hurley III had been given the full points for his misspelled answer, he still would have gotten his butt kicked during Jeopardy!'s Kids Week. But that hasn't stopped Hurley III from saying he was cheated after judges ruled that his answer "Emanciptation Proclamation" was wrong because it was spelled incorrectly.
"I was pretty upset that I was cheated out of the final Jeopardy! question ... It was just a spelling error," the Newtown, Conn., eighth grader told the local News-Times. Here's Hurley misspelling his answer and what he says is him being "cheated":
Hurley himself seems to have changed his feelings about the experience. Prior to his episode airing, he told the Newtown Bee that being on the show was a "neat experience." But since the episode aired, and possibly the reason why Thomas and his family are more upset at the news, a chorus of people have called the spelling ruling one of the most heartbreaking things ever seen on show. Some people have said it's because Jeopardy! was being cheap and trying to save money, others said that Jeopardy's accuracy rules are arbitrary and inconsistently enforced, others said that Trebek was being smug, while still others asserted that Jeopardy! has no spelling rules (see Jeopardy's Facebook page for more). Oh, and yes, there are some who think the show was being too hard on a 12-year-old.
Those responses have in turned sparked a backlash by Jeopardy! fans who believe in rules, spelling, and that you have to teach kids they can't all be winners. "I may as well write down unicorn and say it was a typo," is one of the most colorful responses on the Jeopardy Facebook page. Another fan adds: "Thank you Jeopardy for being one of the few places that seems to uphold a standard anymore."
For what it's worth, we will say that Thomas isn't the first to be haunted by Jeopardy!'s rules of pronunciation and spelling. Here is the great Reid Rodgers Wimbledon controversy of 2012:
You'll notice the Jeopardy judges took off points because they heard "Wimbleton" instead of Wimbledon.
So is Thomas Hurley III's Jeopardy answer going to change the way we teach kids or rip apart all social structure and rules in America? Ummm, let's keep in mind this is only Jeopardy. That said, the producers of Jeopardy have given what feels like a pretty good (and perfectly-spelled answer):
If Jeopardy! were to give credit for an incorrect response (however minor), the show would effectively penalize the other players. We love presenting young people as contestants on our show and make every effort to be fair and consistent in their treatment.