Herbert Stempel, TV quiz show whistleblower
NEW YORK (AP) — Herbert Stempel, a fall guy and whistleblower of early television whose confession to deliberately losing on a 1950s quiz show helped drive a national scandal and join his name in history to winning contestant Charles Van Doren, has died age 93.
Stempel’s former wife, Ethel Stempel, told The Associated Press on Sunday that he died at a New York nursing home on April 7. She cited no specific cause of death.
Stempel’s long life was changed and defined by a TV face-off late in 1956, when he and Van Doren smoothly executed a fraudulent display of knowledge, gaps in knowledge and sportsmanship on “Twenty-One,” part of a wave of programs that offered big prizes for trivia experts. Confessions by Stempel and others badly tainted the young medium, helped lead to Congress’ banning what had been technically legal — rigging game shows — and to the cancellation of “Twenty-One” among others.
Interest was revived by the 1994 movie “Quiz Show,” directed by Robert Redford and starring John Turturro as Stempel and Ralph Fiennes as Van Doren, who died last year.