'Jeopardy!' episodes to air next week champ Ken Jennings apologizes for 'artful and insensitive' tweets: 'I screwed up'

'Jeopardy!' episodes to air next week champ Ken Jennings apologizes for 'artful and insensitive' tweets: 'I screwed up'

Ken Jennings is apologizing.

The Jeopardy! champ, consulting producer and soon-to-be interim host said in a series of messages Wednesday he’s tweeted “some unartful and insensitive things” over the years. He explained that many of the words “worked as jokes” in his head, but he was “dismayed to see how they read on screen.” He didn’t delete them because he felt like that would be “whitewashing a mistake,” but he said that he didn’t stand by everything he’d said in the past.

Alex Trebek's final episodes of the long-running game show will air Monday, Jan. 4, through Friday, Jan. 8 (check local listings). All five new episodes were taped in late October, according to a press release, weeks before Trebek's death early last month of pancreatic cancer. He was 80.

  Sometimes I said dumb things in a dumb way and I want to apologize to people who were (rightfully!) offended, Jennings said. It wasn't my intention to hurt anyone, but that doesn't matter; I screwed up, and Im truly sorry.

Friday's episode will include a special tribute to Trebek, who hosted more than 8,000 episodes of "Jeopardy!" since 1984. The game show will continue airing new episodes Jan. 11 with "Jeopardy!" champion Ken Jennings as guest host.

In an interview published Tuesday, "Jeopardy!" executive producer Mike Richards opened up to Entertainment Weekly about shooting what would become Trebek's last episode before his death.

"He had been out with the surgery, and I wasn't sure he would be back to tape those days," Richards told EW. "So for the few of us that knew what exactly was going on, there was a heightened sense in the room. I had chills throughout the first taping on that Monday, because I was watching him, going, 'How is he doing this?' He came in at a higher level than normal, and his normal was excellent. On that first episode, he walked out, and you'll see it when it airs, he gives this amazing speech about the holidays and coming together and being strong and taking care of each other. And we didn't know he was gonna do that; he just walked out and did it."

The final five episodes were shot over two days. Although exhaustion occurred while tapping Trebek, Richards said, You'll see them and you'll go, This man is as healthy as can be. Its not a sick person at all. He had a lot of willpower. And we knew how much he was fighting, and that made the performance even more impressive.

In his final post on the subject, Jennings said, “If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we should be kinder to one another. I look forward to heading into 2021 with that in mind.”

Jennings’s comments come less than two weeks before he’ll begin his stint as the interim host of Jeopardy! following the death of former host Alex Trebek in November.

The announcement Jennings would be introducing clues was no surprise to Jeopardy! fans, who know him well. He first competed on the show in 2003, when he appeared on 74 games in a row — the longest winning streak in the show history. In 2011, he famously played and lost to IBM computer Watson. He beat fellow Jeopardy! champ James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter to win the show Greatest of All Time tournament in primetime. Jennings has become so associated with Jeopardy! that he joined the show as a consulting producer and occasionally popped up to deliver clues when the 37th season debuted in September.

That doesn’t mean everyone was happy with the announcement Jennings would be stepping into Trebek’s role, even if temporarily. Actress Yvette Nicole Brown and others on Twitter opposed the choice, citing his past tweets. According to IndieWire, Brown pointed out one from Sept. 22, 2014 in which Jennings said, “Nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair.” He addressed it four years later, when someone retweeted his words. “I never did a public flogging for this but I did apologize personally to angry/hurt people who reached out personally,” Jennings said. “It was a joke so inept that it meant something very different in my head [and] I regret the ableist plain reading of it.” The tweet has since been deleted.

Reps for the show could not be reached for comment.

Jeopardy! is airing a retrospective of Trebek’s best episodes through this week. Beginning Jan. 4, viewers can see the final week of episodes that Trebek taped. The first of the episodes that Jennings hosted is set to air Jan. 11.