Jeopardy’s Ken Jennings Defends Himself Against Accusations That He Gave A Contestant A Hint And Misspoke During A Clue Reading

Mayim Bialik is getting ready to make her return to the daytime episodes of Jeopardy! — months after Ken Jennings was initially set to pass the baton back to his co-host — and after the week the former super-champ has had behind the lectern, the break might be a welcome one. Jennings was called out by fans for what they perceived as two significant faux-pas on recent broadcasts, and he took to social media to defend himself against those accusations. Let’s take a look at what’s gone down on Jeopardy! this week. 

Did Ken Jennings Offer A Contestant A Big Hint? 

It can be a risky move on Jeopardy! for the host to add in their own commentary while delivering clues on the fast-paced quiz show. Fans certainly didn’t like it when Ken Jennings did so on the episode that aired February 7. For the $400 clue in the category “Literary Title Characters,” he read, “Lord Henry tells him, ‘To get back my youth (I’d) do anything’...except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable’; Wilde!” When Matthew Marcus buzzed in, Jennings recalled the champion’s fondness for Oscar Wilde, commenting, “He’s your favorite writer!” before Marcus responded.

Despite Matthew Marcus naming the wrong Oscar Wilde character — he said Ernest, rather than Dorian Grey — many didn’t like that Ken Jennings had added his 2 cents at all, with one viewer saying:

However, In response to another fan’s question about why the host would provide such an advantage, Ken Jennings defended himself, tweeting:  

The last word in the clue was ‘Wilde.’ Nobody added a hint.

That wasn’t the only issue the er “Oscar Wilde,” I can see how that would be a major issue, but Ken Jennings pointed out that “Wilde” was part of the clue, not part of the answer. It's certainly possible that his extra comment could have sparked a memory Tthat led to a correct answer, but it wasn't the case here.

However, that wasn’t the only issue the Jeopardy! record-holder was forced to defend himself over this week, either.

Did Ken Jennings Misspeak During A Clue Reading? 

On February 8, the host again came under fire, during the $800 clue in “The Corporate Structure” category, which was a visual clue. Ken Jennings read, “A Chicago building is named for this product, and, to play on an old commercial, ‘You’re soaking it in.’” The clue was a reference to the Palmolive slogan, “You’re soaking in it,” with many taking to Twitter to point out the interchanged words: 

Mistake by Ken Jennings on Jeopardy tonight. When giving the clue, he said “ you’re soaking it in” referring to Palmolive. The tag line by Madge was, “ You’re soaking in it”. Even geniuses make mistakes 😊

The former champ responded again, though to a different viewer, pointing out the clue was not meant to repeat the actual tagline. Ken Jennings wrote

Not an error or a misread. The clue said it was a ‘play on’ an old commercial. The writers had tweaked the slogan to relate to the video clue.

If Ken Jennings had made a mistake, there's no way Jeopardy! producers would have let it slide without recording a retake, but it is easy enough to see how — without fans having the clue to read for themselves — the words “play on” flew right over viewers’ heads.

Either way, Ken Jennings’ hosting stint is coming to an end for now, as Mayim Bialik is set to take back the reins on Monday, February 20. She was initially supposed to be back on the daily Jeopardy! episodes at the beginning of the new year, but changes to her filming schedule on Call Me Kat prevented that from happening. Instead Jennings continued to handle the clues, which was apparently celebratory news to recent champion Jake DeArruda, who had some pretty strong opinions in the hosting debate.

Check your local listings to see when Jeopardy! plays in your area, and be sure to take a peek at our 2023 TV schedule to see what new and returning shows are premiering soon. 

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Heidi Venable is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend, a mom of two and a hard-core '90s kid. She started freelancing for CinemaBlend in 2020 and officially came on board in 2021. Her job entails writing news stories and TV reactions from some of her favorite prime-time shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Bachelor. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Journalism and worked in the newspaper industry for almost two decades in multiple roles including Sports Editor, Page Designer and Online Editor. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.