Ken Jenning’s Problematic Past Tweet Cost Him Jeopardy Host Gig

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Ken Jenning’s Problematic Past Tweet Cost Him Jeopardy Host Gig

Ken Jennings seemed like a shoo-in for the role of Jeopardy! host. After all, he held the record for longest winning streak and was widely considered to be the GOAT of the beloved trivia series. He also had great chemistry with the man who lorded over Jeopardy! for fifty years and made the show his own: Alex Trebek. He was a fan favorite and had been working as a consultant on the show since 2020.

According to the Wall Street Journal, as recently as nine months ago, executives at Sony Pictures Entertainment all agreed Jennings would make an ideal successor to Trebek, despite his limited hosting experience. But things began to unravel when Jennings was announced as Jeopardy!’s first, rotating guest host.

In the lead-up to the episode’s airing, fans resurfaced some of his old tweets. “Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair,” read one from 2014. Jennings quickly apologized but it did little to stymie the PR damage. Then the tweet resurfaced again when Jennings came to the defense of his Omnibus co-host, John “Bean Dad” Roderick, whose thread about his parenting style caused a global meltdown on Twitter.

People familiar with Sony’s selection process told the WSJ that executives were concerned by reactions to the tweet and feared a fan-powered backlash. The subsequent dip in Jennings’ focus group ratings didn’t help his case. These factors combined convinced the Sony execs to put the kibosh on Jennings and resume, in earnest, the hunt for a new host.

Evidently, in choosing Jennings, Sony executives had hoped to avoid a chaotic selection process that has consumed other host-driven shows like NBC’s The Tonight Show in recent years. Unfortunately, what they’ve ended up with instead is a process that makes the Conan O’Brien fiasco of 2010 seem like a perfectly orchestrated transition.

Abigail Covington is a journalist and cultural critic based in Brooklyn, New York but originally from North Carolina, whose work has appeared in Slate, The Nation, Oxford American, and Pitchfork

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