Kelly Donohue, a contestant on "Jeopardy!" who faced backlash this week after making a hand gesture widely associated with the white power movement, has broken his silence on the situation, publicly condemning white supremacy and racism. His statement comes just one day after more than 500 former "Jeopardy!" contestants wrote an open letter asking the game show to publicly disavow Donohue.
At the beginning of his third appearance on the show, two-time champ Kelly Donohue made an "OK" sign with his hand, touching his forefinger to his thumb, and holding it to his chest. In recent years, the same gesture has been co-opted by hate groups, particularly white supremacists. The Anti-Defamation League officially classified the gesture as a symbol of hate in 2019.
The gesture sparked wide debate on social media as former contestants decried the gesture and called on show producers to address the issue. In a since deleted Facebook post, Donohue himself wrote "That's a 3. No more. No less." He later made his social media account private. Now, Donohue's profile is once again public, and he has issued a new statement on the matter.
"I'm truly horrified with what has been posted about me on social media. I absolutely, unequivocally condemn white supremacy and racism of any kind," Donohue wrote. "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."
Donohue added that he deleted his initial statement on Facebook because the comments were "more than I could bear" but that he maintains what it said: the gesture was meant to be the number three.
By midday on Wednesday, the letter calling for "Jeopardy!" to issue a statement on Donohue's gesture had more than 200 signatories. As of Thursday morning, the number had more than doubled.
"Regardless of his stated intent, the gesture is a racist dog whistle," the letter states. "Some of the first people to notice this were not affiliated with 'Jeopardy!' in any way -- they were viewers who couldn't believe what they'd seen, captured it on video, and shared it to Twitter. Among them were people of color who, needless to say, are attuned to racist messaging and not appreciative that the show allowed this symbol to be broadcast."
Reps for "Jeopardy!" were not immediately respond to requests for comment.