TV | April 30, 2021 1:18 pm

“Jeopardy!” Contestant Calls Alleged White Power Gesture a “Terrible Misunderstanding”

Kelly Donohue appeared to make the three-fingered hand sign that is associated with the Three Percenters

Kelly Donohue on Jeopardy
Kelly Donohue on "Jeopardy!"
ABC

The day after using a slur against the Romani people and being corrected by guest host Anderson Cooper, a Jeopardy! contestant appeared to make the three-fingered hand sign that is associated with the white power group known as the Three Percenters.

After receiving backlash from the media and in the form of a letter signed by more than 500 former Jeopardy! contestants published on Medium, Kelly Donohue called the situation a “terrible misunderstanding” and said he condemns “white supremacy and racism of any kind” in a public statement on Facebook.

“I’m truly horrified with what has been posted about me on social media,” Donohue, a 35-year-old bank examiner from Massachusetts, wrote in his post. “I absolutely, unequivocally condemn white supremacy and racism of any kind. People who know me personally know that I am not a racist, but for the public at large it bears repeating: I am not a racist and I reject and condemn white supremacy and all forms of bigotry for the evil they are. It’s shameful to me to think anyone would try to use the stage of Jeopardy! to advance or promote such a disgusting agenda.”

According to Donohue, who won three games and $80,601 before being eliminated on the same day he made the controversial gesture, he was simply using his fingers to indicate his trio of victories on the show. Donohue held up one finger following his first win and two fingers after his second victory, per Boston.com.

“During the taping of my fourth episode, I was simply raising three fingers to mark my 3rd win,” he wrote. “There was nothing more I was trying to indicate. I deeply regret this terrible misunderstanding. I never meant to hurt a soul and I assure you I am no friend of racists or white supremacists.”

The letter published by the former contestants indicates they are not buying Donohue’s explanation for the gesture, which was designated as a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League in 2019.

“This gesture was not a clear-cut symbol for the number three,” per the letter. “He held his thumb and forefinger together with his other three fingers extended and palm facing inward, and he tapped his chest. This, whether intentional or not, resembled very closely a gesture that has been coopted by white power groups, alt right groups, and an anti-government group that calls itself the Three Percenters.”

For what it’s worth, the fact-checking website Snopes made the determination the accusation that Donohue made a white power gesture is false.