Jeopardy! star Ken Jennings apologizes for past 'insensitive' tweets and jokes: 'I screwed up'

Tyler Aquilina
·3 min read

Peggy Sirota/ABC via Getty Images

Ken Jennings has issued an apology for his past "unartful and insensitive" tweets.

The Jeopardy! champion, who will host upcoming episodes of the game show in the wake of Alex Trebek's death, posted a Twitter thread apologizing for posts and jokes that many deemed offensive. One such post, a 2014 tweet that resurfaced in November (and has since been deleted), read, “Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair” and received considerable backlash.

"I just wanted to own up to the fact that over the years on Twitter, I've definitely tweeted some unartful and insensitive things," Jennings began. "Sometimes they worked as jokes in my head and I was dismayed to see how they read on screen. In the past, I'd usually leave bad tweets up just so they could be dunked on. At least that way they could lead to smart replies and even advocacy. Deleting them felt like whitewashing a mistake."

"But I think that practice may have given the impression I stand by every failed joke I've ever posted here. Not at all!" he continued. "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. 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."

Previously, in 2018, Jennings said he had privately apologized to "angry/hurt people who reached out personally" about the "wheelchair" tweet. "It was a joke so inept that it meant something very different in my head & I regret the ableist plain reading of it!" he added.

Jennings' name has been frequently floated among observers as a potential successor to Trebek; however, no official new host has been announced. Jennings will be the first of a series of interim guest Jeopardy! hosts, with his episodes set to air beginning Jan. 11. In September, he was hired as a consulting producer for the show, with his role including reading select categories on the air.

Jennings will also appear on the upcoming ABC game show The Chase alongside his rivals in January's Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time tournament, Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer. (Jennings ultimately won the tournament.) The Chase debuts Thursday, Jan. 7.

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