Ken Jennings may be on the brink of being Jeopardy!’s next host, but he’s also landed himself in front of Twitter’s proverbial firing squad for the third time in recent history. In 2014, the Jeopardy record-holder lost followers and picked up scathing news coverage for a shockingly ableist tweet (via HuffPost). “Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair,” Jennings wrote. HuffPost was so miffed that they wondered if Jennings’ account might have been hacked. To be clear, it wasn’t. Four years later, and Jennings still hadn’t deleted it.
“I never did a public flogging thing for this but I did apologize personally to angry/hurt people who reached out personally,” he excused himself in 2018, “It was a joke so inept that it meant something very different in my head & I regret the ableist plain reading of it!” Jennings, it seems, was — half apologizing, should we say? — in reaction to the fact that LGBT and disability rights activist, Annie Segarra had dug up the tweet, turned it on its head, using it as fodder for a new, Twitter movement: #HotPersonInAWheelchair.
“We’re here, we’re hot, we deserve to feel hot, to be seen, to take up space,” Segarra explained the new hashtag on Facebook, “I think what’s important here is that tweets stand the test of time. They still have the power to hurt and offend or anger years after posting when their author totally forgot what they’d originally said” (via BBC). Jennings did not delete his tweet.
Is #HotPersonInAWheelChair coming back to Twitter?
Are you ready for round three? It’s November 2020, and Jeopardy! has announced Jennings as its new, interim guest host. Twitter, meanwhile, is already boycotting Jennings. “Yeah..not sure if I’ll be able to watch Jeopardy after learning what an ableist trash-heap Ken Jennings is. That Just sucks,” wrote one frustrated Jeopardy! watcher. “Ken Jennings could delete this tweet right now if he wanted. In the meantime, I recommend against being his fan,” pointed out another. When Chris O’Neill Yates, CBC journalist, tweeted “Like, who else could they choose?!?,” in response to Jennings’ nomination, she too, was mercilessly reprimanded. ” Somebody who doesn’t make sh**** ableist jokes?,” suggested one critic.
2018’s #HotPersonInAWheelChair, meanwhile, is busy making a resounding comeback. “Came all the way back to the Twitterverse for the #HotPersonInAWheelchair movement. And man @KenJennings was right, it is just so sad,” tweeted one advocate, ironically. “Honestly, I would be 100% okay if #HotPersonInAWheelchair came back. 500%. 1000%,” wrote another user. “#Jeopardy, Ableist Tweets for $500,” seconded another, reminding followers, “In 2018, the disabled community responded to this celebrity’s ableist tweet with the viral hashtag #HotPersonInAWheelchair.” Like in 2014 and 2018, Ken Jennings has failed, thus far, to take full responsibility for his actions.
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