Levar Burton has said he has no interest in hosting Jeopardy!. After that messy host selection process messy who could blame him. But for some reason, Los Angeles Times reporter Stephen Battaglio took it upon himself to enter the conversation and insert his misguided belief that Burton would jump at the chance if offered the primary spot. Variety reported Friday that in a recent interview on “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah,” Burton expressed a feeling many people can relate to when chasing what they think is a significant dream. (Read the full Variety article here).
“The crazy thing is that when you set your sights on something…they say be careful of what you wish for because what I found out is that it wasn’t the thing that I wanted after all,” Burton told Trevor Noah. Burton also described having new opportunities as a result of the process. But that wasn’t good enough for Battaglio, who hopped into Variety’s Twitter mentions.
Several supporters jumped in to defend Burton, even saying the show would be “beneath” him.
Some people may say that he opened up such a conversation because of the public campaign, but nobody wants Jeopardy! messy sloppy seconds. This is not to say that celebrities are beyond reproach. Assuming a person’s motivation and desires, particularly someone as open and accessible as Burton is just setting oneself up for a major fail.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. When Battaglio later tried to double down after being challenged in his professional capacity, Burton refused to let the writer off the hook quickly.
“No, Stephen… you don’t get a pass. You made erroneous assumptions about me and made them public,” tweeted Burton. “Throughout this entire ordeal, I have done my utmost best to take the high road in spite of the amount of vitriol and bile some folks have felt it necessary to post on my timeline.”
Burton’s interaction highlights a more significant issue with the lack of respect that Black creatives often contend with within white-dominated spaces. He owes no one, least of all journalists, an explanation for how he chooses to move. And yet, his response to Battaglio is a masterclass in setting boundaries, self-determination, and knowing when to let loose.