Mike Richards out as ‘Jeopardy!’ host after past scrutinized

Aug 20, 2021, 9:37 AM | Updated: 10:14 am

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Producer Mike Richards stepped down from his brief tenure as host of “Jeopardy!” after a report about past misogynistic comments surfaced this week and following a drumbeat of criticism about his selection and how it was made.

Richards was chosen last week as the successor to Alex Trebek, a decision that was seen as divisive from the beginning after the show had embarked on a broad search that included actors, sports figures, journalists and celebrities.

Earlier this week, a report on the website The Ringer revealed demeaning comments about women, the homeless and others that Richards had made on a 2013-14 podcast. The clips were removed online after the report was posted.

“Over the last several days it has become clear that moving forward as host would be too much of a distraction for our fans and not the right move for the show,” Richards said in a note to the “Jeopardy!” staff on Friday. “As such, I will be stepping down as host effective immediately. As a result, we will be canceling production today.”

Richards said a search for a new host will begin again, with guest hosts returning to continue production for the new season, he said in the note.

Sony Pictures Television, the studio that makes “Jeopardy!” and which released Richards’ memo, had no further immediate comment. Taping for the show had been set to begin this week for the upcoming 38th season starting Sept. 13.

Richards’ note indicated that he will remain the show’s executive producer — an awkward situation for whoever replaces him.

“I want to apologize to each of you for the unwanted negative attention that has come to Jeopardy! over the last few weeks and for the confusion and delays this is now causing. I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your trust and confidence,” he said.

The podcast content would have dogged anyone taking over a high-profile Hollywood position but was especially difficult for Richards, said Robert Thompson, a Syracuse University professor.

They were “the opposite of what we thought of in Alex Trebek. ‘Jeopardy!’ and Trebek were kind of this place you escaped from the scandal and the tweets and all the other stuff that was going on in the world,” Thompson said Friday.

When Richards was tapped to host the popular game show last week, Sony also announced that actor Mayim Bialik would emcee “Jeopardy!” prime-time and spinoff series, including a new college championship.

While the report of Richards’ podcasts immediately preceded his exit, there had also been renewed attention to his 2009-18 tenure as a producer on “The Price is Right.” Several lawsuits had been filed by former models against the show alleging discriminatory behavior, including one which named Richards. He reportedly was dropped from it before a settlement was reached.

Doubts also grew about the fairness of the selection process, with reports finding holes in Richards’ repeated assertion that the decision was Sony’s and he had no role in it. Volleys of memes were launched comparing Richards to Dick Cheney, whose search for George W. Bush’s 2000 vice presidential running mate ended with Cheney in the spot.

Sony’s decision to crown the “Jeopardy!” executive producer as Trebek’s successor — after a pageant-style parade of celebrity contenders — had stirred ill-will and suspicion toward what had been a remarkably trusted institution. Trebek, who hosted the show for 37 seasons, died last November.

Andy Saunders, a longtime Canadian viewer and administrator of The Jeopardy! Fan website, has been taking stock of viewer sentiment. Lukewarm perceptions of Richards had been changing for the worse, in part because of his podcast titled “The Randumb Show.”

“I have seen the needle move significantly from, ‘Well, I guess I’ll watch to support the contestants’ to, ‘This is beyond the pale; Mike Richards needs to be fired,’ over even the last 24 hours,” Saunders wrote in an email Thursday.

On the podcast, Richards used derogatory, crude language about women and their bodies. At one point he says his female co-host and former assistant was a “booth ho” and “booth slut” when she worked at a trade show. He also made a mocking remark about Jews and disparaged the homeless.

“It is humbling to confront a terribly embarrassing moment of misjudgment, thoughtlessness, and insensitivity from nearly a decade ago,” Richards said in a statement to The Ringer staff writer Claire McNear, who first reported on the since-removed podcasts. He called the remarks inexcusable, adding, “I am deeply sorry.”

McNear, author of the 2020 book, “Answers in the Form of Questions: A Definitive History and Insider’s Guide to Jeopardy!” said Thursday that “Jeopardy!” had become an unimpeachable part of pop culture.

“Everybody knew ‘Jeopardy!’ and everybody loved ‘Jeopardy!’ and Trebek was not controversial. It was just this great trivia show. And now it is controversial and that’s not going away,” she said.

Filling the host’s job was never easy. Affection for Trebek made finding a replacement both a gesture of regard for him as well as a business decision.

The immediate reaction to the largely unknown Richards’ hiring was befuddlement, although he ably handled a two-week stint as a fill-in host. There were also howls of protest from fans of other candidates, including Ken Jennings, LeVar Burton and Aaron Rodgers.

Richards signed an overall development deal with Sony in 2019, and became executive producer of “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” in May 2020, positions he was to retain while hosting the quiz show.

Favoring Richards, who’s firmly in the cookie-cutter host mold of a white, square-jawed young man, struck some as proof of an insincere effort by the studio to consider a woman, a person of color or someone from the LGBTQ community. More than half of the guest hosts fall into one or more of those groups.

While ratings rose and fell during the various guest-host stints, “Jeopardy!” remains among the top-ranked syndicated programs and a valuable asset for Sony.

“On the surface, it seems like they didn’t cast a wide enough net to really consider who’s the right host, but went with the easier choice politically (within the company) and financially,” said former Hollywood studio executive Yalda Uhls, a teacher and researcher with the University of California, Los Angeles.

“And it’s coming back to bite them,” Uhls said.

___

AP Radio reporter Shelley Adler in Fairfax, Virginia, contributed to this report.

__

This story has been corrected to show that Richards was named in a suit filed against “The Price is Right.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Law enforcement get ready for a search after a small plane crash in Carteret County, N.C., o...
Associated Press

Lawsuits in NC plane crash that killed 8 settled for $15M

The families of five passengers killed in a 2022 plane crash off the North Carolina coast have settled wrongful death lawsuits against the companies that owned the plane and employed the pilot and the pilot’s estate for $15 million, family representatives announced Friday. All eight people aboard the Pilatus PC-12/47 died when it descended into […]
10 hours ago
FILE -  In this aerial photo taken with a drone, flood waters surround storm damaged homes on Aug. ...
Associated Press

Filipino workers: Oil company abandoned us in Hurricane Ida

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As Hurricane Ida struck the Louisiana Gulf Coast in August 2021, Renato Decena and Rosel Hernandez watched the storm punch a hole in the roof of the bunkhouse where they were sheltered — abandoned, they allege, by their offshore oil industry employer as the hurricane bore down. “I could not think […]
10 hours ago
FILE - Tubes direct blood from a donor into a bag in Davenport, Iowa, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022.  Th...
Associated Press

FDA moves to ease rules for blood donations from gay men

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is moving to further ease restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men and other groups that typically face higher risks of HIV. The Food and Drug Administration on Friday announced draft guidelines that would do away with the current three-month abstinence requirement for donations from men who have […]
10 hours ago
FILE -Brian Walshe listens during his arraignment Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, at Quincy District Cour...
Associated Press

Internet evidence key, but not enough in no-body murder case

BOSTON (AP) — Prosecutors in Massachusetts are basing their murder case against a man whose wife is presumed dead but whose body has not been found in large part on a series of gruesome internet searches he made around the time of her disappearance. Scouring data on personal electronic devices is a common strategy in […]
10 hours ago
Associated Press

Explosion in Polish parish house kills 1, injures 7

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Officials in southern Poland said that a person was found dead Friday after an explosion demolished half of an old Evangelical parish house in the city of Katowice. The explosion injured at least seven people, and one person remained missing, according to the regional governor. Gov. Jaroslaw Wieczorek said two women […]
10 hours ago
FILE - Company logo shines off the grille of an unsold 2023 F-150 Lightning pickup truck Thursday, ...
Associated Press

Ford recalls nearly 383K SUVs to fix backup camera problem

DETROIT (AP) — Ford is recalling nearly 383,000 SUVs in the U.S. because the touch screens may not display a camera image when backing up. The recall covers certain 2020 to 2023 Ford Explorers and Lincoln Aviators, and some 2020 to 2022 Lincoln Corsairs. All are equipped with 360-degree cameras. Ford says in government documents […]
10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Mike Richards out as ‘Jeopardy!’ host after past scrutinized