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.
Unacceptable!! Bethlehem is in the Palestinian territories which Israel illegally occupies (Katie Needle got the correct answer & was robbed). @Jeopardy owes an apology for endorsing Israel’s universally-condemned illegal takeover of Palestinian lands.pic.twitter.com/Ym99YziM4k
— Omar Baddar (@OmarBaddar) January 11, 2020
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.)
Loved how Katie turned to the judges like “are you fucking kidding me?” If you kept watching, after the commercial break she had her points back but they didn’t explain why to the viewer, which… I have never seen before on Jeopardy. https://t.co/1V3ZyHvR6o
— Connor Goldsmith (@dreamoforgonon) January 11, 2020
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.
Hey @Jeopardy – the Church of Nativity is in Bethlehem, which is located in the West Bank which – under international law – is occupied by Israel.
The occupied land is also known, under international law, as the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
— Sana Saeed (@SanaSaeed) January 11, 2020
Her reaction 👏🏼. Curious about @Jeopardy‘s choice to have a ? about the location of the Church of the Nativity, rule “Palestine” wrong, give Katie her $ back (but neither give her $ for the correct answer, nor reduce Jack’s), and not address the correction at all… #Jeopardy pic.twitter.com/CTChJCgdFW
— Jessica Elliott (@jess_ismore) January 11, 2020
#KatieNeedle is absolutely right: Bethlehem is located on the West Bank and is therefore obviously in #Palestine. @Jeopardy: When preparing your show you should have noticed: The UNESCO lists the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem under the name of Palestine
— Shoshana (@MsGalathea) January 11, 2020
Even Needle, the night’s eventual winner, chimed in on Twitter (assuming that this account, created in Nov. 2010, does indeed belong to her).
Thanks! Palestine should be free 🇵🇸
— Katie Needle (@katieee817) January 11, 2020
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.