Pat Sajak's Most Controversial Wheel Of Fortune Moments

As game shows have become a television staple in the past few decades, so too have some of their hosts achieved legendary status. For example, "Jeopardy's" Alex Trebek, Steve Harvey of "Family Feud" fame, and Bob Barker from "The Price is Right" will all go down in TV history as some of the most noteworthy game show hosts of all time. Hosting alongside the fabulously dressed and stunningly transformed Vanna White, Pat Sajak is another long-time presenter who has cemented his place in the figurative hall of fame.

Hosting "Wheel of Fortune" since 1981, Sajak has appeared in thousands of episodes of the hangman-style competition series. While this amount of screentime has garnered him a fan-favorite reputation, it's also lent itself to many on-camera blunders. In this way, Sajak may be a veteran of game show television, but he isn't immune to controversy.

From dismissing a contestant's story to making inappropriate comments to his co-host, here are some of Pat Sajak's most controversial "Wheel of Fortune" moments.

Sajak called a contestant's story pointless

Typically, Pat Sajak effectively navigates conversations with "Wheel of Fortune" contestants, drawing out interesting anecdotes and adding in funny quips, but the game show host hasn't always been the most obliging. For example, the Chicago native received criticism for his dismissive reaction to one player's story, as he deemed it one of the most pointless ever shared on the show.

The comment was directed towards Scott Ingwersen, who shared his appreciation for first responders who had come to his rescue as a boy. "When I was 12 years old, I was riding a 10-speed bike with flip-flops, and I fell and completely cut off the top of my toe," Ingwersen shared, explaining that a team of paramedics happened upon him on their way to a job. His toe was able to be reattached, with the contestant adding, "I just wanna say thank you to them 30 years later."

In response, Sajak took a moment to look confusedly around at the studio audience, obviously amused, then looked into the camera. "That may have been the most pointless story ever told," he said. While the "Wheel of Fortune" host was seemingly entertained by the perceived pointlessness of the anecdote, many fans took to social media to criticize the comment, accusing Sajak of being rudely dismissive to someone who was opening up on national television.

Pat potentially poked fun at a contestant's lisp

In another controversial moment, Pat Sajak allegedly made fun of a contestant's apparent speech impediment, causing dismay among "Wheel of Fortune" watchers. Chris Bramble, a tech salesman from California, appeared on a February 2021 episode of the competition.

After talking with Sajak about his job, mentioning that his company sells technology to senior living facilities, Bramble explained that many old folks are more willing to engage with new technology than many people assume. "So that's just a myth?" Sajak asked. When Bramble confirmed, the host replied, "I thee," seeming to imitate a lisp by turning his "s" into a "th."

Some viewers believe Sajak was simply playing off the word "myth," but those who interpreted it as a slight to Bramble's way of speaking were disgusted at the potential joke. "He has one job as game show host — put the contestant at ease, not feel mocked," tweeted one viewer. Another user tagged the game show's Twitter account, writing, "It is NOT OK for Pat Sajak to mock a contestant's speech impediment. Time for Pat to go."

The Wheel of Fortune host wrestled with a player

Fans of "Wheel of Fortune" also took issue with how host Pat Sajak became playfully physical with a contestant in the aftermath of a win. Fred Jackson, who explained on the show that he's a professional wrestler outside of his day job, won a total of $75,800 in a March 2023 episode. While Jackson was celebrating his win during the show's conclusion, Sajak came from out of frame to put the "WoF" winner in a wrestling move known as a "chicken wing."

Though the player seemed to play along, some at-home viewers expressed their confusion and dismay at the host's behavior. "It's past time for Sajak to retire. How can he verbally or physically assault a contestant before people realize he should be in a home not in front of America," one Twitter user wrote.

Despite some "Wheel of Fortune" fans taking issue with this display, many viewers were more entertained than anything else. Even Jackson spoke publicly about the incident, explaining that it was one of the highlights for him. He told TMZ, "As a pro wrestler and as a guy of showbiz — and as the guy that he was putting in the hold — I loved that moment ... That was one of the biggest highlights of the show. So for me personally to see, from my perspective, see[ing] the criticizing he gets online is a little unfair."

WoF watchers didn't like this comment toward Vanna

While Pat Sajak has made his fair share of controversial comments to "Wheel of Fortune" contestants, the game show host has also said some questionable things to his iconic colleague, Vanna White. During the conclusion of an April 2022 episode, in which White and Sajak were closing out the show as usual, the long-time host asked his counterpart a peculiar and inappropriate question.

"Are you an opera buff at all?" Sajak asked, referencing one a contestant's profession. "I'm not a buff, but I like opera," White replied. "Have you ever watched opera in the buff? I'm just curious," Sajak then asked. While White replied with an obvious no and an awkward laugh, many at-home viewers had a much stronger reaction to the out-of-pocket comment.

"Whateveer was Pat thinking? So inappropriate!" tweeted one social media user, with another writing, "I wish the producers & sponsors would replace Sajak. His comments are getting out of hand. Surely, there MUST be better male TV game show hosts out there to replace Pat!" It seems like Sajak was just trying to get a laugh, but it was definitely an uncomfortable moment for many viewers. We just hope the legendary Vanna didn't feel too awkward afterward.

Sajak made an awkward stalker joke

Though Pat Sajak and Vanna White typically have great banter, this "opera buff" quip wasn't the only joke from the game show host that didn't land. In a "Wheel of Fortune" episode from early 2023, the presenter made an awkward stalker-like jest about hiding in Vanna's garden. The comment came during the conclusion of the episode after Sajak asked his colleague where she likes to spend her free time.

"So when you're away from the exciting world of show business, is there a place to go to relax to get away from it all?" he asked (via The Sun). "My garden in my backyard! It's peaceful, it's quiet — there's trees, there's birds," White said, later directing the question back to her co-host. "Uh, you don't know this, but it's actually your garden," answered Sajak. "I'm usually there about 2, 3 in the morning. Don't be alarmed!"

Obviously, the game show host was trying to be funny, but it's just another example of Sajak's humor missing the mark for many.