Washington Post- It was a surreal moment in the middle of a surreal news cycle. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) and his Republican challenger, Scott Wagner, sat on stage, their faces frozen and their hands clasped. And Alex Trebek, the “Jeopardy!” host and the moderator of Monday night’s debate, let loose, joking that the only thing with a lower approval rating than the Pennsylvania legislature was the Catholic Church.
Polite laughter from the audience quickly turned to boos. Trebek, dressed in a purple flowered tie with a matching pocket square, looked out at the crowd watching the two candidates face off at an upscale hotel in Hershey, Pa.
“Don’t go there,” the white-haired television host said, wagging a finger. “I was born and raised in the Catholic Church and I’m just as ticked off as everybody else is over what has happened with the church.”
He went on, unfazed by the ticking clock and the fact that the debate was nearly halfway over. “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.”
Hey Trebek, what… what are you doing? People expect you to just lob softball questions at the candidates, maybe deliver the occasional joke. You were hired to moderate the debate, not insert your frustrations with the Catholic Church’s history of sex scandals. The audience doesn’t want to hear your political opinions; that’s not what they’re there for. Be funny, clown! (This is a self-awareness joke. See: my apology from an hour ago.)
Clearly, he thought the crowd would be on board with his low approval ratings joke. Probably jotted that down on a napkin in the green room and saved it for the middle of the debate to inject some comic relief at a dull moment. Then, when it bombed, he tried to explain the joke and why he’s right?
Gotta move on there, pal. You need to IMMEDIATELY ask the candidates a new question. Let them speak over the chorus of boos. It’s a terribly unprofessional thing to do as a host, but you have a reputation to uphold. People love you, Alex. You’ve been hosting Jeopardy for over 30 years and you make $10 million a year to keep things moving. Let these Pennsylvania candidates for governor deal with the shitstorm you brewed by bringing up the MOST touchy subject at completely the wrong time, in the wrong place.
But did he fade into the bushes? Nope. He weighed-in on the severance tax:
“The severance tax would bring in a lot of money,” Trebek said, over a chorus of disagreement. “No? No, it would not? Who says no, it would not? You have the impact fee now which has brought in $1.2 billion in the last seven years, and you’re telling me a 6 percent severance tax would not bring in money?”
And then aired out how miserable he was for being there in the first place!
“What on earth was I thinking?” he said. “My god, I’m not as bright as some of you people in the audience think I am. This is not a game show tonight. This is serious stuff. And I can’t begin to tell you how much agony and stress I have experienced over these many months because I accepted that invitation.”
Hey, go for broke dude. I respect it. When the ship is sinking, you might as well blow the life rafts to pieces. Hell, jump in the water and go for a swim. The sooner you hit rock bottom, the sooner you can collect that paycheck, Uber a helicopter, and head for shore. He’ll be back on TV tonight as he is every single night, from now until the end of time. Just because you’re hired to moderate doesn’t mean you have to be moderate.