Laura Coates says she was shocked to be named by Alex Trebek as his potential successor.
By Tatyana Hopkins
“I was as shocked as anyone else.”
That was the response of Laura Coates, a professorial lecturer at GW Law, to the unexpected endorsement from Alex Trebek that she should succeed him as host of the longtime game show Jeopardy.
“He could have named anyone in the world, or he could have named no one in the world,” she said.
The comments that rocked the game-show world came last week from Mr. Trebek, who was being interviewed by TMZ show host Harvey Levin. Mr. Trebek said there was just a “50-50” chance that he would return to the show after the end of his contract in 2020. In hinting the end of his now 34-year run on the show, he suggested the adjunct professor as his potential successor.
“There is an attorney, Laura Coates,” Mr. Trebek said to Mr. Levin when asked for the name of a possible replacement for him on the game show following his retirement. “She’s an African American, and she appears on some of the cable news shows from time to time.”
A spokesperson for the production company of Jeopardy said the show had no public comment on Mr. Trebek’s suggestions.
Ms. Coates, who lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two children, said she was surprised that Mr. Trebek even knew her name. She said in an interview with GW Today that she has since thanked him for the mention. An admitted loyal fan of Jeopardy, she said she felt honored to be named as two possible successors for him on the show, which also included Los Angeles Kings play-by play announcer Alex Faust.
Ms. Coates began her career in private practice in Minnesota and New York where she focused on intellectual property law. She transitioned to public service as a federal prosecutor for the Department of Justice, specializing in voting rights cases, and then served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
Since leaving the U.S. Attorney’s office three years ago, Ms. Coates has lectured at GW Law on social justice issues and led a writing course in criminal litigation.
“It’s been so much fun,” Ms. Coates said.
In addition to lecturing at GW Law, Ms. Coates hosts a daily show on SiriusXM’s Urban View channel where she engages her audience on the issues of the day. She also works regularly as a legal analyst on CNN and frequently lectures at other universities on issues of race, policing, domestic violence and sexual assault.
Before the announcement, she said she only saw two possible choices for a Jeopardy! host— "Alex Trebek with a mustache and Alex Trebek without a mustache."
“It would be an opportunity I could not pass up,” Ms. Coates said.
The gig would make her one of only a few black female game show leads.
"If I’m relatable to other people, and they see themselves in me, then that is really a true honor,” she said. “It’s really humbling to think that would inspire or provoke a greater discussion in any way.”
Ms. Coates will not be teaching at GW Law in the fall 2018 semester. Instead, she will follow high-profile cases including the Paul Manafort trial and other special counsel cases, but said she hopes to return as soon as possible.
"I knew I couldn't devote as much time as I could this semester, but I will return again soon,” Ms. Coates said.