Everybody makes mistakes. Wheel of Fortune has entertained countless viewers since it originally premiered in 1975 — but with time also comes error.
Since its inception, the game show has featured contestants who solve word puzzles in order to win cash and other prizes. Pat Sajak has hosted the show since 1981, earning 19 Daytime Emmy nominates and three wins. Vanna White has also remained an iconic presence on the show after joining as a hostess in 1982.
While most of the series’ hiccups occurred with contestants over the years, Sajak once shocked viewers when he accidentally solved a puzzle on air. During an April 2021 segment of the show, the host commented on the board, which read, “_ _ _ T E _ R A N _ L _ .”
The TV personality said “quite frankly,” which was part of the correct answer, but the contestant didn’t notice the hint at the time and solved the puzzle on their own. After the episode, the longtime host told White that he realized his mistake “right after I said it.”
He continued: “I wonder how many people at home caught it. There weren’t many letters up there and I said, ‘I’d rather be here than there, quite frankly’ — which was the puzzle. But it goes to show you that people are concentrating and they’re not paying any attention to me.”
The dynamic duo didn’t think the clue was too obvious for the contestant, but Sajak still joked, “It’s funny what your … mouth will say that your brain says, ‘You shouldn’t do that.'”
That same year, Sajak goofed up when he opened a grand prize envelope before the participant had actually spun the wheel, adding, “Oh, I already looked at it. I’m not sure why I did that. I know what she’s playing for and you don’t!”
At the time, White pointed out that the Illinois native had never made such an error during his time on the show. He responded, “There’s a first time for every mistake. Even I’m not perfect. I know that’s shocking news.”
The game show made headlines again in December 2021 when a player lost out on on Audi car due to what fans considered a technicality.
Charlene Rubush had already earned $16,500 before she moved on to compete in the bonus round. During the “What Are You Doing?” puzzle, Rubush guessed “Choosing the right card,” later changing her answer to “Choosing the right … word” right before the buzzer.
Sajak explained that she lost out on her final prize because she hesitated to complete her thought, even though she guessed the correct phrase.
“You know, this one’s tough because you said all the right words, including the word ‘word’ but, as you know, it’s gotta be more or less continuous,” he said at the time. “We’ll allow for a little pause but not four or five seconds. I’m sorry. You did a good job in getting it, but we can’t give you the prize, and it was the Audi.”
After the moment sparked major backlash online, Audi used their official social media account to let fans know that they would be willing to right the wrong, tweeting, “You’re a winner in our eyes, Charlene. Now, let’s get you a prize. Time to #GiveHerTheQ3.”
Scroll down to see some of the biggest mistakes on Wheel of Fortune over the years: