Over the last couple of days, social media users have been circulating a claim that Jeopardy! contestant Kelly Donohue made a "white power" hand gesture during a recent episode.
Along with their claim, users shared images and photos showing returning champion Donohue, a bank examiner from Massachusetts, touching his thumb and index finger with his remaining three fingers extended and palm facing inward - hand gesture has been known to have roots in white supremacy – as the show's host, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, introduced him.
The incident sparked backlash on social media and a group of former show participants also penned an open letter published to Medium on Wednesday condemning the incident on the game show, demanding an apology.
Donohue's Hand Gesture Symbolizes his Three Victories
However, it turns out Donohue's gesture seemed to be an indicator of the number of times he has won on the show. His appearance on April 27 was his third win, and he was holding up three of his fingers to reflect the same. Similarly, during his introduction on previous shows, Donohue has held up two fingers and one finger, signifying his second and first win, respectively.
A Facebook account linked to Donohue clarified this in a now-deleted Facebook post. "I just wanted to clear something up about my recent appearances on Jeopardy!, the greatest game show of all time. Competing on Jeopardy was the thrill of a lifetime and being a returning champion is something I'll never forget. Many of the great champions of old had a little signature hello they would do onscreenwhen being introduced by Johnny Gilbert. I decided to count my victories.
"That's a 1. That's a 2. That's a 3. No more. No less," he wrote alongside images of him making the respective hand gestures during all three appearances on the show. "There wasn't a hidden agenda or any malice behind it."
What Does the White Power Symbol Mean?
The "white power" hand gesture, which resembles the initials W and P, is popular among "people across several segments of the right and far-right," according to the Anti-Defamation League and the movement associated with the gesture, called "Operation O-KKK," was reportedly started on the anonymous message board platform 4chan in 2017.
Neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen and other white nationalists have been known to use the gesture in public "to signal their presence and to spot potential sympathizers and recruits," the New York Times reported in 2019.
The hand gesture is now being used as an expression of white supremacy. For instance, white supremacist Brenton Tarrant flashed the symbol during a March 2019 courtroom appearance for allegedly killing 50 people in a shooting spree at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.