'Fire Pat Sajak!' Media Tries to Create a Controversy

Dan Steinberg

People across the country are outraged and hurt by a tasteless, misogynistic, offensive joke that Pat Sajak made during an episode of the long-running game show, Wheel of Fortune.


Before watching the video below, please go to your safe space, clutch your teddy bear, and have your therapist on call in case it traumatizes you.


If you’re still reading this, it means you weren’t too traumatized to continue. Congrats.

In sum, Sajak asked Vanna White if she was an opera buff, she said no, and he shot back with “have you ever watched opera in the buff?” It was a silly retort, a quick play on words. He has been hosting the show for 41 years, and is known for his wry sense of humor. I could totally see the late great Johnny Carson making an off-the-cuff remark like that. He would make jokes like these, and nobody complained.

Naturally, a few Twitter users weighed in on Sajak’s ad-lib, with some calling for his firing.

Despite these examples, it’s actually the media that’s really fired up, not so much the viewers. Many outlets are claiming that viewers were “outraged,” “appalled,” “stunned,” yet almost every article uses the same four tweets shown above as evidence. A Twitter search does not actually produce a deluge of outrage — in fact, I found more people in support of Sajak than against.


Some sample headlines:

  • MSN: Pat Sajak’s comment leaves ‘Wheel of Fortune’ fans stunned: ‘You have lost your filter’
  • New York Post: ‘Wheel of Fortune’ fans shocked by Pat Sajak’s ‘#MeToo moment’ with Vanna White
  • The Sun: ‘SHAME ON HIM!’ Wheel of Fortune fans appalled by host Pat Sajak’s ‘absolutely inappropriate’ question to Vanna White
  • Decider: ‘Wheel Of Fortune’: Pat Sajak’s Wildly Inappropriate “Opera In The Buff” Banter Rattles Vanna White

In its report, Daily Mail said:

…the audience reacted loudly, with some laughter but many audible groans. White answered with a firm no, her tone seeming to indicate that it was an impertinent question — but she quickly recovered with a smile and laughed it off.

That’s not what I saw. If you watch the clip slowed down by 1,000 percent, you may be able to spot a nanosecond’s display of displeasure on Vanna White’s face. I couldn’t, but maybe you can. Didn’t see the “firm no” either. What I saw was the always-professional Vanna chuckle, move on from the silly joke, and finish the show with a smile on her face. It’s certainly possible she was annoyed, but the only way to know for sure is to hear it from her.

I also didn’t hear “audible groans,” did you? I heard a sort of halfhearted ripple. The joke wasn’t especially funny, so of course there wasn’t huge laughter.

I came to this story expecting to rip all the fragile Twitterati who get offended at the slightest thing. That would have been fun.


What I discovered instead is that this controversy is mostly a media creation, and that not very many people are truly offended. It was just a play on words — and nothing more. Cancel Culture is real, and it is destructive, and it must be stopped.  Many of the news organizations I mentioned above are reputable, and are able to shape the narrative. Part of our responsibility in media includes not endorsing clickbait headlines when the evidence doesn’t back it up.

There will continue to be many real Cancel Culture episodes in our future, so journalists hardly need to drum one up when the evidence just isn’t there. Pat Sajak isn’t going anywhere, at least not unless he buys Twitter.


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