A Letter from Concerned Former Contestants to Mike Richards, Executive Producer of Jeopardy!
February 24, 2021
Dear Mr. Richards:
It has been exciting to see Jeopardy! feature an increasingly diverse pool of contestants over the past few years. We are excited to see this diversity of talent expand to the guest host pool, with guest hosts such as Aaron Rodgers, Katie Couric, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to name a few. And as a large, diverse group of people, there is very little that a large group of Jeopardy! contestants can agree upon. But when we heard that Dr. Mehmet Oz was slated to be a guest host, agreement came quickly — we were opposed.
We understand that first and foremost, Jeopardy! is a television show, and ratings are important. However, Dr. Oz stands in opposition to everything that Jeopardy! stands for. Jeopardy! is a show that values facts and knowledge. Throughout his nearly two decades on television he has used his authority as a doctor to push harmful ideas onto the American public, in stark contrast with his oath to first do no harm. These ideas include promoting supplements that do nothing, legitimizing gay conversion therapy (which is banned in California, as well as 19 other states), dangerous “cures” for autism, and, most recently, the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19. None of these things is backed by any scientific fact and by promoting them he is actively putting his viewers in danger. In fact, his ideas are so dangerous that thousands of his colleagues have petitioned to have him fired from his position at Columbia Medical School. And what kind of message does this send to the LGBTQ+ and autistic contestants and viewers of Jeopardy!?
Dr. Oz represents what has become a dubious trend in America: the elevation of the credentialed talking head at the expense of academic rigor and consensus. We once viewed intelligence and genius as something that a single heroic intellect could embody. We have since learned and we now understand that we do much better at study and science when we approach it as a group and build off of each other’s insights and checks. But consensus does not mean that everyone gets a seat at the table to present “treatments” that at best, have no medical evidence to support them, and at worst, are shown by medical evidence to be actively harmful. Evidence-based medicine is the gold standard because evidence-based medicine keeps people alive. And we need our public champions of learning and science to support that view.
Jeopardy! is known for being incredibly rigorous; a well-deserved reputation. As contestants, we’ve all seen what happens behind the scenes if there’s any doubt about a question. We’ve seen writers and judges frantically cross-reference answers in real time to make sure that the facts are accurate. To then invite Dr. Oz to guest-host is a slap in the face to all involved.
Former Jeopardy! Contestants
(600+ signatories in the link below)