Young 'Jeopardy!' Contestant Feels 'Cheated'

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ABC News' Melissa Lustrin reports:

Thomas Hurley III's appearance on the TV quiz show "Jeopardy!" and set tongues - and fingers - wagging and now he's spelling out his disagreement over the result.

For his final answer in the "Jeopardy!" Kids Week game that aired July 31, the 12-year-old Newtown, Conn., boy misspelled "Emancipation Proclamation" - he wrote "Emanciptation Proclamation." Even though the answer was correct, judges and show host Alex Trebek said they couldn't accept it because it was "badly misspelled," according to Trebek.

Now, Hurley is airing his displeasure with the ruling.

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"I was pretty upset that I was cheated out of the final `Jeopardy!' question. It was just a spelling error," Hurley, a Newtown Middle School student, said in an interview that appeared Sunday on the website of The News-Times of Danbury.

Having gotten the answer correct wouldn't have made a difference to the outcome. Skyler Hornback, who also had the correct answer with the correct spelling, has $36,600 going into the final round. Thomas had $9,600, of which he'd wagered $3,000 on the outcome of the final round.

Hornback, 12, of Sonora, Ky., wagered $30,000, ending up with $66,000. That was the highest one-day total for a "Jeopardy!" Kids Week game and the third-highest one-day total in ever, according to the show.

The decision to disqualify Thomas' answer unleashed criticism on the program's Facebook page from viewers who thought the decision on spelling was harsh. Others found Trebek's explanation rude and inappropriate.

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One poster wrote: "He's 12, give the kid a break!"

In a statement overnight, "Jeopardy!" producers defended the decision, telling ABC News: "If Jeopardy! were to give credit for an incorrect response (however minor), the show would effectively penalize the other players."

Hurley's mother, Suzanne, said her son was "a little stunned" by the loss.

"He felt embarrassed," she told the News-Times. "It was hard to watch."

The show was taped in February.

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Thomas won $2,000 as the second runner-up. He told the News-Times that he'll save his money for college, and that it feels good to know that others share his belief about his answer.

"It's just upsetting to have lost that way," he told the News-Times. "I don't know why it would have counted as the wrong answer."

The Hurley family declined to comment further when reached by ABC News, saying they have moved on at this point.

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