“Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek apologized on Wednesday for his heavily criticized ― and at times bizarre ― performance as a moderator for the Pennsylvania gubernatorial debate earlier this week.
Trebek raised eyebrows Monday night for making jokes and speaking at length about his own political opinions during a 45-minute debate in Hershey between Gov. Tom Wolf (D) and his Republican opponent Scott Wagner.
The 78-year-old TV icon said in a statement Wednesday that he was “naive” and had “failed to recognize the seriousness of the event for the voters.”
“I thought that as moderator, I was to provide a certain light-hearted approach while still being able to challenge the candidates on their record or positions,” Trebek wrote. “I didn’t realize I was to ask a simple question and then let the gentlemen go at each other.”
“I offer my sincere apologies to the people of Pennsylvania, a state I dearly love,” he added.
Trebek kicked off the event Monday with a nearly five-minute monologue, telling the audience that he was “not drunk” when he accepted the invitation to moderate the debate but later questioned whether he should have accepted.
“What on earth was I thinking?” Trebek wondered aloud, prompting a few muffled laughs. “Obviously I’m not as bright as some of you in the audience think I am.”
When the gubernatorial candidates eventually joined him onstage, his first question was not about their political platforms ― but about football trivia.
“Tell me the name of the starting defensive lineman for the [Philadelphia] Eagles who has won two consecutive Super Bowls ― each won with a different team,” Trebek said.
The audience chuckled as Wolf responded, “I guess you’re going to want me to put that in the form of a question.”
Later, Trebek was met with awkward silence when he joked about the Catholic Church’s approval rating in light of the sexual abuse allegations against Pennsylvania clergy.
“The approval rating for the legislature is at 14 percent,” Trebek said. “The only thing with a lower rating in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the Catholic Church.”
After his botched joke prompted some boos from the audience, Trebek decided to discuss his own experience with the Catholic Church, noting that he was never molested by clergymen:
I was born and raised Catholic and I’m just as ticked off as everyone else is over what has happened in the Church. However, having said that, I would add this if I may, when I was a young teenager I attended a Catholic boarding school run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Two hundred and fifty students, other boys and I, spent three years sharing the same accommodations 24/7 with 44 priests and not once in those three years was there any sexual misbehavior. Now boys are pretty sharp, we talk, we would have known. So I believe that there are Catholic priests out there who are able to minister to their congregations without preying ― that’s P-R-E-Y ― on the young people.
By the end of the debate, much of the audience had turned on him. Instead of allowing the two candidates to debate each other, Trebek ended the event by arguing with Wagner over education and taxes. His comments were met with loud boos from the crowd.
“What did I tell you guys at the beginning?” Trebek told the crowd. “No booing or hissing! And now you’re directing it at me!”
Viewers slammed Trebek for spending so much time talking about himself. Some wondered why Trebek had been tapped to moderate the only scheduled debate between Wolf and Wagner in the first place.
The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, who invited Trebek to moderate, did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Watch the full debate below: