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The internet spins after Pat Sajak mocks a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ contestant’s phobia

Pat Sajak in a black tuxedo arrives at an event.
Host Pat Sajak apologized to a contestant after poking fun of her fish phobia during a recent episode of “Wheel of Fortune.”
(Dan Steinberg / Associated Press)
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Viewers are going online to discuss “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajack and how he mocked a contestant for her fear of fish.

Sajak approached Ashley Laumb during an interview segment of an episode that aired last week, asking, “You don’t like fish. You don’t like to eat them, you don’t like to swim with them?”

“Nothing — nothing to do with them at all,” she responded. “If they’re on a plate or in the water, I am not gonna be anywhere near it.”

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“Were you frightened by a fish as a little girl?” Sajak probed, drawing laughter from the audience.

“It’s a long story, Pat, we don’t have time,” Laumb said. Sajak broke out in laughter while Laumb cracked a smile.

Ichthyophobia is defined by PsychCentral as a persistent and irrational fear of fish. People with ichthyophobia “might fear seeing, smelling, touching, or eating fish.”

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Later during the show, Sajak dragged the joke along with a prank. After Laumb won some money, Sajak walked over, whipped out a toy fish and handed it to another contestant.

“I don’t want her to see this, just hold on to this,” Sajak said as he held the faux fish, which caused Laumb to groan and turn away with her hand to her face. Sajak, who has hosted the show for more than 40 years, then turned to her to offer an apology:

“You’ll forgive me for that, won’t you?” he asked, according to Fox News.

“I might,” she quietly said.

Laumb went on to win the most money in the episode, walking away with $63,250.

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Though Sajak apologized on air in real time, the moment drew ire from some online, including one Twitter user, @PsychProfJ, who wrote, “When someone has a phobia you do NOT test them. You can do serious harm to them. Say you have Aracnophobia (spiders) and people accept that. Say you have #Icthyphobia (fish) and people think it’s a laughing matter.”

One Instagram commenter, a longtime “Wheel of Fortune” watcher, was flabbergasted, having never “seen Pat pull these kinds of shenanigans.”

But many other commenters came to Sajak’s defense, with one calling the gag “comedy genius.”

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“Give Pat a break !! Humor is all it was,” another said.

Just last week, Sajak cheekily apologized for mocking another contestant. After poking fun at a contestant and his long beard by referring to him as one of Santa’s helpers, Sajak walked up to the man and, with his consent, gave it a tug, according to the Sun.

“Thank you all for being here, and I apologize again, Santa,” he later said in the episode.

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