Jeopardy!: Church of Nativity clue ‘flawed’, aired due to ‘error’

Quiz show caused outrage after a contestant was told she was wrong for saying the Church of Nativity was in Palestine.

Alex Trebek
Jeopardy television game show host Alex Trebek speaking on stage during the 40th annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Beverly Hills, California [File: Danny Moloshok/Reuters]

The producers of the US quiz show Jeopardy! have issued a correction to an episode that prompted outrage after a contestant was told she was wrong when she identified Palestine as home to Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity.

“In the process of taping this clue, ‘BUILT IN THE 300s A.D., THE CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY’ we became aware that the clue was flawed as written and that determining an acceptable response would be problematic,” the show said in a statement late on Monday, adding that the show still aired due to “human error”. 

We regret the error, and we will make every effort to ensure this never happens again,” the show said. 

The controversy began on Friday, when contestant Katie Needle was given the clue: “Built in the 300s A.D., the Church of the Nativity”, under the category “Where’s that Church?” Needle responded, “What is Palestine?” which host Alex Trebek said was incorrect. Moments later another contestant, Jack McGuire answered, “What is Israel?”. He was awarded $200.

The Church of Nativity, a World Heritage Site, is believed to be the birthplace of Jesus. It is located in the city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, which is internationally recognised as being part of Palestine. Israel has occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the 1967 war.

Church of the Nativity
Palestinian scouts parading in Manger Square outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank [Mussa Qawasma/Reuters] 

In its statement on Monday, the show said that “in accordance with our rules and in the interest of fairness” the clue was voided and thrown out. 

“Unfortunately, through human error in post-production, the uncorrected version of the game was broadcast,” the statement added. 

The show also said the scores of the two contestants were restored to what they were prior to the clue, and the outcome of the game was not affected. 

The episode prompted a backlash on social media, drawing criticism over its handling of the answer and demanding that the show apologise.

“This hit a nerve,” said Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

“It was clearly an error on their part, but it’s important that they realised it’s a mistake and they explained how it happened,” Munayyer told Al Jazeera.

“We can take their word that there was an error in good faith, but it’s equally important that there was a public outcry after,” Munayyer said adding, “Jeopardy! and others understood that there is a growing public cost to participating in the erasure of Palestinian history and culture.”

Jeopardy! also released a video of what should have replaced the question, which featured a clue about the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.

Source: Al Jazeera