Last Friday, the Wall Street Journal published a piece about how the suits at Sony initially wanted Ken Jennings to take over as host of Jeopardy! after Alex Trebek’s death last November. Apparently, they saw him as a perfect choice cuz he’s a fan favorite and proud smarty-pants. But then 46-year-old Ken’s problematic tweets from several years ago resurfaced, and the tides, they turned. According to Jeopardy! sources, focus groups “didn’t react well to Mr. Jennings afterward,” and his fate was sealed. And after months of guest hosts, Sony finally chose Mike Richards, the most unproblematic choice. JK JK, Mike’s past comments were even messier than Ken’s, and now he’s out as host (but please note he’s still the show’s executive producer), and the search for the new Trebek continues. Since messy white people seem to be Sony’s brand, have they tried Alec Baldwin or Lena Dunham?
Apparently, Sony executives thought Ken was an “ideal successor” to Alex and would “grow into the role.” After all, fans loved him and he won 74 games in a row back in 2004. But they were given “pause” after the old tweets surfaced. In case you missed Ken’s shitty tweets, Yvette Nicole Brown posted about one of them back in November:
Riddle me this: the callous tweet below by @KenJennings has been up for SIX years. A lot of folks commented on it. Many were hurt by it. He even engaged with a few.
But he didn’t delete the tweet until THIS week after he’s announced as interim @Jeopardy host.
Why now? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/2JfAZxW64P
— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) November 26, 2020
There was also one from 2015 where he “joked” about Daniel Fleetwood, a terminally ill Star Wars fan who got to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens before his death. Ken tweeted:
Remember when Ken Jennings tweeted that joke about the terminally ill Star Wars fan who wanted to see the latest movie before he died?
— Ashley Kay (@quabbityash) November 18, 2019
A couple of years later, after that picture of Kathy Griffin holding Donald Trump’s decapitated head caused all sorts of controversy, Ken made a joke about then-11-year-old Barron Trump “seeing a very long necktie on a heap of expired deli meat in a dumpster. He thought it was his dad & his little heart is breaking.” He also described an elderly woman mourning her deceased son by tweeting, “This awful MAGA grandma is my favorite person on Twitter.”
At the end of December, Ken apologized for his old tweets in a series of new tweets:
In the past, I'd usually leave bad tweets up just so they could be dunked on. At least that way they could lead to smart replies and even advocacy. Deleting them felt like whitewashing a mistake. 2/x
— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) December 30, 2020
But just a few days later Bean Dad happened. Remember the Bean Dad saga that captivated the world during the first days of 2021? Ken’s then podcast co-host/best bud, John Roderick, tweeted about forcing his hungry 9-year-old daughter to figure out how to open a can of beans without his help. People called his actions cruel and mentally abusive. And then the backlash inspired people to drag up John’s old problematic tweets, which were racist, ableist, homophobic and used many, many slurs.
But Ken defended his friend (about the Bean Dad stuff, not the old tweets) and called Twitter “dumb”:
If this reassures anyone, I personally know John to be (a) a loving and attentive dad who (b) tells heightened-for-effect stories about his own irascibility on like ten podcasts a week. This site is so dumb.
— Ken Jennings (@KenJennings) January 3, 2021
So focus groups turned on Ken and his tweets “unraveled” the show’s succession plan. In the wake of Mike Richards stepping down as host, there are rumors that Ken is once again being considered as a permanent replacement. Or it could be current Jeopardy! primetime/spinoff series host Mayim Bialik. Or maybe someone new? Whoever it is, Sony needs to get off their asses and hire a private detective to look into their pick’s background before they make their choice official. Or, at the very least, throw an intern a few extra bucks to search for any past controversies. Seriously, it doesn’t take an Encyclopedia Brown to scroll down to 2008 on somebody’s social media. Believe me, I’ve done it for every crush/ex I’ve ever had, pro bono!