Story at a glance

  • A group of former contestants of the popular quiz show “Jeopardy!” spoke out after a winner allegedly flashed a hand-gesture similar to one that has been associated with a white supremacist symbol.
  • The former contestants accused Donahue of using a hate group hand signal, similar to a more traditional "OK" sign, saying the position of his fingers was not “clear cut.”
  • Donohue had previously flashed both 1 and 2 signs with his fingers after each win, symbolizing his victories, and has stated he merely indicated his victories with the gestures.

A group of former contestants of the popular quiz show ‘Jeopardy!’ spoke out after a winner allegedly flashed a hand-gesture similar to one that has been associated with a white supremacist symbol. 

The contestants accused three-time champion Kelly Donohue in an open letter published on Medium of using the signal and called out Jeopardy!’ for not addressing what they considered to be an offensive symbol —regardless of intent. 

“A recent contestant has caused concern among ‘Jeopardy!’ viewers for two separate occurrences, and we as former contestants feel the need to speak out against the messaging that these choices communicated — either intentionally or unintentionally — by the contestant Kelly Donohue and, implicitly by association, the producers of ‘Jeopardy!’” they wrote.

The former contestants accused Donahue of using a hate group hand signal, similar to a more traditional "OK" sign, saying the position of his fingers was not “clear cut.” Donahue, the group wrote, “held his thumb and forefinger together with his other three fingers extended and palm facing inward, and he tapped his chest.” 


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Donohue had previously flashed both 1 and 2 signs with his fingers after each win, symbolizing his victories, and has stated he merely indicated his victories with the gestures.

“In a public Facebook post that has since been deleted, Kelly states, ‘That’s a 3. No more. No less.’ His public Facebook profile also featured a cover photo of Frank Sinatra making a similar gesture,” the group wrote. 

But the group is asking the show to exercise more vigilance and to approach delicate situations cautiously to uphold the integrity of the contestants and the show. 

“As people whose lives have been largely beneficially impacted by this show and its community, we really hope to see a statement and a disavowal of both of this week’s events, and we would like to see ‘Jeopardy!’ address Kelly’s behavior,” the group added. 

“We know that contestants sign morals and ethics-related agreements when they prepare to appear on the show, and we would ask the production team to evaluate this situation within that framework,” they wrote. “Finally, we hope to see changes made so that future mistakes of this magnitude never make it on air.” 


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Published on Apr 29, 2021