Jeopardy is facing backlash after a question waded into Israel-Palestine politics

Whatever it was that led to Friday’s Jeopardy foul-up, people aren’t happy.

A category called “Where’s the church?” presented the clue: “Built in the 300s AD, the Church of the Nativity.” The church in question is located in Bethlehem, a city in the West Bank. It’s the stretch of land that wraps around Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem, but the West Bank is Palestinian land. It’s also at least partially occupied by Israeli forces.

Still, the way maps are drawn, the correct question in response to that clue would be “What is Palestine?” That’s how contestant Katie Needle answered, even though she was marked as incorrect. Another contestant buzzed in after her and answered with what the show deemed as the correct answer: “What is Israel?”

Understandably, the whole incident didn’t go over well on social media, as people tuned into what happened and took note of the factual error.

Mistakes happen sometimes on Jeopardy, and that can lead to mid-episode corrections. There’s some indication that happened here as well, with some people reporting that Ms. Needle’s lost points from the wrong answer were added back to her total during the subsequent commercial break. But the matter was never spoken of on the show.

(I watched the episode and can confirm that Ms. Needle’s score, which dropped from $4,800 to $4,600 after her “incorrect” response, was indeed set back to $4,800 when the show returned for Double Jeopardy. The contestant who answered “Israel” also retained the points awarded.)

By all appearances, the powers-that-be at the show realized the mistake and did their best to make it right without actually addressing it on the air. Given the sensitivity of Middle Eastern politics generally and the disagreements between Israel and Palestine specifically, that’s understandable (if not terribly wise in this era of online backlash).

That backlash didn’t take long. Twitter was alight all weekend with people taking Jeopardy to task for making an apparent judgment call on where borders lie. While it’s true that the West Bank has been the subject of disputes between the two nations for a long time, it’s also true that the territory, Bethlehem included, is classified as Palestine’s.

Angry Twitter users didn’t hesitate to call this out, along with the fact that the apparent correction wasn’t addressed at all during the episode.

Even Needle, the night’s eventual winner, chimed in on Twitter (assuming that this account, created in Nov. 2010, does indeed belong to her).

In short, it’s a mess. 

Mashable reached out to Jeopardy for comment but we haven’t yet received a response, and the show hasn’t posted any sort of statement on its social accounts. Stay tuned for updates.