Mike Richards is stepping down as the new host of “Jeopardy!” following a slew of controversies, including a history of sexist remarks he made on his podcast, several discrimination lawsuits during his tenure as executive producer of “The Price Is Right,” and questions surrounding his involvement in the search for a new host while also vying for the job himself.
In a memo to the show’s staff on Friday, Richards announced that he “will be stepping down as host effective immediately,” just one day after the show began taping his first episodes for its new season, which begins next month.
“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,” he wrote. “As such, I will be stepping down as host effective immediately. As a result, we will be canceling production today.”
Richards said that until a new host is selected, the show will continue to feature a rotation of guest hosts, who will be announced next week.
Sony Pictures Television, which produces the legendary game show, announced last week that Richards would succeed the late Alex Trebek as the show’s daily host beginning this fall. Actor and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik will host new prime-time specials and spinoffs.
The studio executives did not seem to anticipate the swift fan backlash and the questionable optics of the decision. Richards, who has served as the show’s executive producer since 2019, was involved in the search for a new host, including managing the show’s rotation of guest hosts, several of whom were in the running for the permanent position. (In announcing Richards’ ascension, Sony executives said the ultimate decision was not his and that he stepped aside from the process once he became a candidate.)
But that was only the tip of the iceberg. Earlier this month, when Richards was in “advanced negotiations” to succeed Trebek, several news outlets resurfaced discrimination lawsuits from his time as executive producer at “The Price Is Right,” showing that he allegedly led a toxic work environment.
Earlier this week, The Ringer’s Claire McNear reported that Richards routinely made sexist remarks denigrating women’s appearances on “The Randumb Show,” a podcast he hosted from 2013 to 2014 while he was producing “The Price Is Right.” On various episodes, he used derogatory terms, like calling his co-host, Beth Triffon, a “booth ho” and “booth slut” after she spoke about working as a model at a trade show. According to McNear, he also told her “she should try out for Taiwanese roles because of her height.” When Triffon discussed losing her job and applying for unemployment benefits, Richards disparaged her economic status and made offensive generalizations about people seeking government assistance.
In response to the reporting, Richards apologized, calling the comments “a terribly embarrassing moment of misjudgment, thoughtlessness, and insensitivity from nearly a decade ago.” (He also swiftly deleted all episodes of the podcast from the internet when McNear reached out for comment.)
As it became clear Richards was nearing a deal to host the show, he sent a memo to “Jeopardy!” staff clarifying that the decision was not his. He also explained that the lawsuits and reports about his time at “The Price Is Right” did “not reflect the reality of who I am.”
Following McNear’s reporting, it seemed more and more untenable for Richards to remain as host. Many “Jeopardy!” fans on social media reiterated their opposition to Richards, and the Anti-Defamation League called for an investigation into his pattern of offensive remarks.
“New Jeopardy! host Mike Richards’ disparaging remarks about Jews, women & Asians are no laughing matter,” the organization tweeted. “Stereotyping is an entry point to hate and his apology lacks acknowledgment of its harm. This reported pattern warrants an investigation.”
While Richards will no longer be the face of the show, he will continue to serve as its executive producer, according to Sony.
“Mike has been with us for the last two years and has led the ‘Jeopardy!’ team through the most challenging time the show has ever experienced. It is our hope that as EP he will continue to do so with professionalism and respect,” the studio said in a statement Friday.
According to the statement, Sony executives “were surprised this week to learn of Mike’s 2013/2014 podcast and the offensive language he used in the past” and “have spoken with him about our concerns and our expectations moving forward.”
In his memo on Friday, Richards apologized to the show’s staff “for the unwanted negative attention that has come to Jeopardy! over the last few weeks.”
“I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your trust and confidence,” he wrote.