(NEXSTAR) — Three-time Jeopardy! winner Kelly Donohue issued a statement Thursday saying that he is “truly horrified” after some people interpreted a hand gesture he made on Tuesday’s show to be a white power signal.
When host Anderson Cooper introduced Donohue, who is a three-time winner, Donohue stretched out his middle, ring and pinky fingers across his chest.
“He held his thumb and forefinger together with his other three fingers extended and palm facing inward, and he tapped his chest,” according to a letter from former “Jeopardy!” contestants. “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.”
“His public Facebook profile also featured a cover photo of Frank Sinatra making a similar gesture,” the letter continues. “This was either erased or made private on Wednesday morning, along with hundreds of public comments on his few “Jeopardy!”-related posts.”
The “OK” hand gesture’s interpretation as a white power symbol dates back to a 2017 hoax on the website 4chan and was used by right-leaning individuals as a trolling tactic, according to the Anti-Defamation League, but was later also adopted by some white supremacists.
Screenshots of Donohue’s gesture prompted a number of posts on social media accusing him of making a racist gesture and slamming the show’s producers for not re-taping his introduction.
“I’m truly horrified with what has been posted about me on social media,” Donohue said in a Facebook post Thursday. “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.”
Fact-checking website Snopes points out that, unlike the ADL’s palm-out hand gesture, Donohue held his palm to his chest and tucked in his thumb and index finger. He had also shown his wins on his fingers in his previous two introductions.
Some people criticized Donohue for deleting a previous Facebook post in which they say he did not condemn white supremacy. Donohue stated that he deleted the post because the comments were more than he could bear, but the admitted that the criticism had merit.
“I hope my feelings on that matter are clear now,” he wrote.
The letter from former “Jeopardy!” contestants also called out the show for allowing the hand sign to air.
“During other tapings of ‘Jeopardy!’ episodes, changes have been made to avoid negative messaging making it to air,” the letter reads. “On more than one occasion, contestants have made gestures during their introductions that were seen as undesirable for broadcast and were asked by the production team to reshoot the footage without the gesture.”
“Jeopardy!” did not immediately reply to requests for comment.