By CBSBoston.com Staff

WINTHROP (CBS) — A “Jeopardy!” contestant from Winthrop says he’s “no friend of racists” and is denying that he made a white power hand signal on the show. Kelly Donohue wrote on Facebook that he’s “horrified” by what has been said about him on social media since the episode in question aired on Tuesday and insisted he only extended three fingers to mark his third win on the show.

“I absolutely, unequivocally condemn white supremacy and racism of any kind,” Donohue, a Boston College graduate, wrote. “People who know me personally know that I am not a racist, but for the public at large it bears repeating: I am not a racist and I reject and condemn white supremacy and all forms of bigotry for the evil they are.”

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An online letter purportedly signed by more than 500 former “Jeopardy!” contestants called the gesture “offensive” and a “racist dog whistle.”

“What I can say is that it’s pretty well known that that particular gesture has become associated with white power,” said Emily Kelly, a contestant in 2012 who signed the letter.

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They acknowledged that Donohue had previously made hand gestures to mark his first and second wins, but said “this gesture was not a clear-cut symbol for the number three.”

“He held his thumb and forefinger together with his other three fingers extended and palm facing inward, and he tapped his chest,” they wrote. “This, whether intentional or not, resembled very closely a gesture that has been coopted by white power groups, alt right groups, and an anti-government group that calls itself the Three Percenters.”

Emily Kelly and the other former contestants said producers should have done something to edit it out.

“My experience is that the producers are usually on top of that,” Kelly said. “Anything that was remotely controversial or that might be misconstrued as being hateful or problematic or just even misconstrued, or just problematic pronunciations there’s usually never any hesitation to re-record something.”

Donohue said he deeply regrets the misunderstanding.

“I never meant to hurt a soul and I assure you I am no friend of racists or white supremacists,” he said.

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CBSBoston.com Staff