With incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf comfortably outpacing GOP challenger state Sen. Scott Wagner in most polls, it looks like Wolf will easily take the race in November. For that reason, the Pennsylvania’s race for governor has frankly not been very dramatic, that is until Tuesday night when “Jeopardy” legend Alex Trebek put on a bizarre spectacle at the gubernatorial debate.
Trebek, one of America’s most iconic game show hosts, put on what many found to be a rambling, and ludicrous performance as a “moderator” during the sole gubernatorial debate of the campaign.
“I accepted on the condition that I would get to do it my way,” Trebek said at the start of the Oct. 1 debate, hosted by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry at their annual dinner. “That doesn’t mean a Jeopardy-type quiz. I’m not here to embarrass the candidates. They’re perfectly capable of doing that all by themselves,” leading to awkward laughter, which became a theme of the night.
“I wanted to do it in a different way. I’m not a big fan of the traditional debate format where the candidates stand at the lectern, the moderator asks a question, and the candidate has 90 seconds to respond,” Trebek said.
But apparently, a “different way” apparently meant a bizarre mockery of the process, with the debate barely scratching the surface of the candidates’ contrasting political viewpoints.
During the 45-minute debate, Trebek spoke longer than either candidate; went on bizarre, rambling tangents, told lame jokes and even cut off the candidates when they had a clear right to speak.
— CBS Philly (@CBSPhilly) October 2, 2018
Wagner and Wolf both gamely tried to keep up appearances and participate like it was a normal debate, but over the course of Trebek’s insane performance, both became increasingly visibly uncomfortable and discombobulated by Trebek’s meandering questioning.
No single article can convey the painful awkwardness of seeing an event as important as the debate for top leader of the Commonwealth conducted like an amateur YouTuber’s talk show. But the lowest point was likely when Trebek tried to make light of the recent Catholic sex abuse scandals in Pennsylvania brought to light by Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and compared them to the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal.
It came up about 36 minutes into the debate, after Trebek discussed problems with the state legislature, and only an unabridged transcript could possibly do it justice.
“Last time I looked, the approval rating for the legislature was 14 percent. The only thing with a lower rating in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the Catholic church,” Trebek began, to audible sounds of shock and objection from the audience. The candidates froze awkwardly. Trebek lumbered on:
“Now, don’t go there. I was born and raised Catholic and I’m just as ticked off as everybody else is with what has happened with the Church,” Trebek said. “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. 250 students, other boys and I, spent three years sharing the same accommodations, 24/7, with 44 priests,” he continued as the candidates looked on in silent disbelief. “And not once in those three years was there any sexual misbehavior. Now boys are pretty sharp, we talk, we would have known, okay. So, I believe there are Catholic priests out there who are able to minister to their congregations without preying – and that’s P-R-E-Y – on young people, and as you Pennsylvanians know well, it doesn’t only happen in the Catholic church, it happens in politics, it happens in college sports, it happens in show business, so enough about that, let’s get back to the legislature.”
That ending brought the debate some of the only applause of the night – but it was probably just because the audience was relieved Trebek’s ramble had finally ended.
The once-in-a-lifetime political circus that was this debate truly requires being viewed in its entirety to be fully believed.
Highlights from the Alex Trebek debate train wreck:
–Trebek advertising the fact that Jeopardy champ Brad Rutter would be competing in the coming ‘Jeopardy All-Stars’ for a prize worth millions of dollars.
–Trebek starting the debate with an esoteric Eagles trivia question to Gov. Wolf, and without waiting for an answer, rambling on to conclude that he brought up that question to to ask Wolf his response to the statement that ” In politics, nothing is unfair.”
–Trebek cut off Wagner without allowing him a chance to discuss the issue of extraction tax on fracking operations; criticized Wolf as receiving millions in campaign donations without allowing him a chance to respond, and when Wagner made a critical comment that Wolf was flying all over the state “handing out checks,” adding, “We’re tracking his plane,” Trebek interposed with a bizarre, high-pitched ‘whooping noise’ perhaps akin to that of a surveillance drone.
Trebek acknowledged his failings after the debate, calling himself naive and calling it a learning experience. “I thought a conversation would work better; it didn’t,” he said.
Wagner’s campaign has shared articles describing Trebek’s performance as “garbage” and demanded two more debates with Wolf.
Wolf had not released a comment on Trebek’s performance or Wagner’s challenge as of midday.