There seemed to be just $200 on the line when “Jeopardy!” contestant Katie Needle buzzed in with the answer “What is Palestine?”
But host Alex Trebek’s response, a decisive “no,” has set off a wave of controversy.
Friday evening’s clue in the category “Where’s that church?” was: “Built in the 300s A.D., the Church of the Nativity.” After Needle’s answer was rejected, Jack McGuire buzzed in with the reply “What is Israel?” and the $200 was added to his score.
With that, “America’s favorite quiz show” was thrust into the debate surrounding a longstanding geopolitical conflict in the Middle East.
The Church of the Nativity, which Christians believe to be the birthplace of Jesus, is located in Bethlehem, just south of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.
It is controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian rights and advocacy groups responded furiously online to the Jeopardy incident.
Omar Baddar, the deputy director of the non-profit Arab American Institute, tweeted that the show’s decision to recognize the church as within Israel and not Palestine was “unacceptable!”
He continued: “@Jeopardy owes an apology for endorsing Israel’s universally-condemned illegal takeover of Palestinian lands.”
“This is outrageous,” said Hisham Melhem, a fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
Jeopardy released a statement following the game regarding the answer.
“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. In accordance with our rules and in the interest of fairness, we voided the clue and threw it out. We restored Katie’s and Jack’s scores to what they were prior to the clue. The outcome of the game was not affected. We then continued the game with this replacement clue. Unfortunately, through human error in post-production, the uncorrected version of the game was broadcast. We regret the error and we will make every effort to ensure this never happens again.”