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“You misspelled it badly,” Mr. Trebek says to the visibly shocked 12-year-old. (YouTube)
“You misspelled it badly,” Mr. Trebek says to the visibly shocked 12-year-old. (YouTube)

12-year-old boy embarrassed on Jeopardy! after one-letter typo Add to ...

It seemed like a small mistake: an extraneous ‘T’ in the word “emancipation.” But that spelling mistake – and the show’s handling of it – has become a point of furious debate for Jeopardy! fans, generating thousands of online comments and calls for host Alex Trebek to apologize.

It all started Friday, after an episode of Jeopardy! showed 12-year-old Thomas Hurley, a Kids Week contestant, disqualified for misspelling his response to a question on the civil war.

Thomas’ written answer to the final question: “What is the Emanciptation Proclamation,” not only brought his total down $3,000 to $6,600, but also earned a light rebuke from Mr. Trebek.

“You misspelled it badly,” Mr. Trebek says to the visibly shocked 12-year-old.

Although it didn’t affect the outcome – the day’s winner Skyler Hornback took home $66,000 – the show’s handling of the spelling error has sparked much online criticism.

By Tuesday, the show’s Facebook page was flooded with thousands of comments (many of those comments themselves containing multiple spelling mistakes).

“I will never watch the show again. Its [sic] kids week. And the answer was right just spelling wrong,” wrote one commenter.

“What is wrong with you Trabek? [sic],” wrote another. “let us be honest here … if you didn’t have your little cue cards in front of you … I doubt you could have pronounced that word properly … let alone spelt it.”

Meanwhile, the 12-year-old told a local newspaper that he felt “cheated,” given that it was a minor spelling error.

“It’s just upsetting to have lost that way. I don’t know why it would have counted as the wrong answer,” he said.

Others have lashed out at Thomas and his family’s response, calling the 12-year-old a sore loser and blaming everything from helicopter parenting to a computer’s spell-check and auto-correct.

“He is a very poor sport,” one Facebook user wrote. “This public crusade that he was ‘cheated’ is just wrong. He wasn’t cheated. He got it wrong. Period.”

“Good job Alex,” wrote another. “Suck it up kid.”

This isn’t the first time a spelling mistake – or a simple typo – has resulted in embarrassment and controversy. “Obama bin Laden dead” headlines earned Fox News weeks of ridicule two years ago, after news broke of Osama’s death.

And officials in South Bend, Ind., were left red-faced in 2010 after a billboard for the local education system touted “15 best things about our pubic schools.”

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Follow on Twitter: @annhui

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