As Ken Jennings prepares to fill in for the late Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, he has some explaining to do.
The show's all-time champion turned to Twitter on Wednesday, Dec. 30, to clarify why he hadn't deleted some controversial tweets from his past. In November, an old post was unearthed that some labeled as ableist. Specially, one 2014 message read, "Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair." He appeared to remove it after Trebek died of pancreatic cancer at age 80 last month.
Jennings said this week he wanted to "own up to the fact that over the years on Twitter, I've definitely tweeted some unartful and insensitive things." The 46-year-old brainiac added, "Sometimes they worked as jokes in my head and I was dismayed to see how they read on screen."
His series of tweets explained that in the past he would leave "bad tweets" up just so they could be "dunked on" and "lead to smart replies and even advocacy." He continued, "Deleting them felt like whitewashing a mistake," and said, "But I think that practice may have given the impression I stand by every failed joke I've ever posted here. Not at all!"
Jennings then apologized for the offensive posts. He admitted, "Sometimes I said dumb things in a dumb way and I want to apologize to people who were (rightfully!) offended. It wasn't my intention to hurt anyone, but that doesn't matter: I screwed up, and I'm truly sorry."
His final tweet looked ahead to 2021, which is also when the last of Trebek's pre-taped episodes will air, in January. Jennings wrote, "If 2020 has taught us anything, it's that we should be kinder to one another. I look forward to heading into 2021 with that in mind."
The official Jeopardy! GOAT was named the game show's first guest host, with production having begun in November to record more episodes.
Executive producer Mike Richards made the announcement at the end of November. He said in a statement, "Alex believed in the importance of Jeopardy! and always said that he wanted the show to go on after him... By bringing in familiar guest hosts for the foreseeable future, our goal is to create a sense of community and continuity for our viewers."
Jeopardy! honored its host of more than 30 years in the first episode after he died. On Nov. 9, Richards appeared at the start of the show to reflect on his legacy, telling viewers, "He will forever be an inspiration for his constant desire to learn, his kindness and for his love of his family."
His wife Jean Trebek later thanked his worldwide fans for their "compassionate messages and generosity" after his passing.
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