This newly installed head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau waited two years for confirmation from the U.S. Senate. He also won ‘Jeopardy!’ five times in 1987, graduated from both Michigan and Oxford universities, and his last name derives from the French cor de roi, meaning “King’s heart.”
The answer: Richard Cordray.
President Obama‘s new top consumer watchdog is, simply put, a trivia monster. The former Ohio attorney general won five consecutive days of “Jeopardy!” in 1987–when five was the limit, long before the Ken Jennings era–before losing twice in that year’s Tournament of Champions.
This week, the Senate confirmed him to run the CFPB, a governmental watchdog arm devised to shield consumers from predatory lending and financial abuse. Obama nominated Cordray in July 2011, but Republicans blocked his nomination until this week, having opposed the CFPB’s creation under the massive financial-reform bill in 2010 and having continued to oppose its materialization with an appointed head. They approved Cordray as part of a bipartisan deal on executive nominations.
Cordray’s “Jeopardy!” run was impressive. Over the course of a week in April 1987, and two Tournament-of-Champions days in November, he missed only 27 questions while correctly answering 141, including six of seven Final Jeopardy! questions. He knows, for instance, that Pericles ruled over the “Golden Age of Athens,” that it was The Hollies who released “Stop, Stop, Stop” in 1966, and that Maria Tallchief was the Osage Indian who danced as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Balanchine’s “Nutcracker” after their marriage had ended.
But now that Cordray has been appointed to a somewhat controversial job, it’s worth examining his “Jeopardy!” record with a more critical eye. In other words, what doesn’t Richard Cordray know?
The website J! Archive has sought to compile every Jeopardy! question asked, answer given, and who got it right. (See Cordray’s games here.) A review of Cordray’s misses reveals few gems, but were the Republican National Committee to release an attack memo on his 1987 quiz-show record, it could say that Obama’s top consumer cop whiffed on questions about Santa Claus, FDR, photosynthesis, and Woody Allen, while confusing Rastafarianism with Voodoo and gravity with air–raising dark, troubling questions about his knowledge base.
Here are seven questions on which Cordray missed, according to J! Archive. The rest weren’t all that interesting.
- Q: If it were not for the retarding influence of this, raindrops would attain bullet-like speeds
CORDRAY: What is gravity?
A: the atmosphere
- Q: “Of him, Francis Church said ‘Thank God, he lives, & he lives forever… Virginia’”
CORDRAY: “Who is Robert E. Lee?”
A: Santa Claus
- Q: “In Feb. 1942 radio address he said, ‘Never before have we had so little time in which to do so much’”
CORDRAY: “Who is Winston Churchill?”
A: Franklin Delano Roosevelt
- Q: “Believers in this Haitian religion say ‘loa’ spirits possess them & ride them like horses”
CORDRAY: “Who are Rastafarians?”
- Q: “The raw materials required for photosynthesis are water & this gas”
CORDRAY: “What is oxygen?”
TREBEK: “Yes, the plant produces oxygen.”
A: carbon dioxide
- Q: “1982 Woody Allen movie whose title suggests he had a little help from Shakespeare”
CORDRAY: “What is A Midsummer Night’s Dream?”
SUSAN: “What is A Midsummer Night’s Comedy?”
A: A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy
- Q: “It’s said this part of Peter Stuyvesant’s body was buried with full military honors years before his death”
CORDRAY: “What is his wooden leg?”
A: his (real) leg