Mike Richards, executive producer of long-running quiz show Jeopardy!, is leaving his seemingly self-appointed role as the program’s new host following a damning report by The Ringer about his shitty behavior, both on his personal podcast and in his previous role as executive producer of The Price is Right.
“It pains me that these past incidents and comments have cast such a shadow on Jeopardy! as we look to start a new chapter,” Richards wrote to the show’s production team in a statement shared with The Ringer reporter Claire McNear by Sony Pictures Television. “As such, I will be stepping down as host effective immediately.”
Richards’ new gig was first announced by Sony Pictures Television a little over a week ago on August 11, which would have made him just the third person to act as Jeopardy!’s full-time host since the show premiered in 1964. His predecessor, beloved personality Alex Trebek, passed away on November 8, 2020 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, prompting Sony to field a series of interim hosts while contemplating the show’s future.
These short-term presenters included Richards himself as well as notable celebrities like Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Jeopardy! champion and consultant Ken Jennings, and accomplished actor LeVar Burton. Burton’s appearance on the show was spurred in part by his popularity on social media, and while some found his short tenure awkward, he remained the clear favorite to succeed Trebek.
Sony’s eventual decision to make Richards the new Jeopardy! host was met with overwhelming criticism early on mostly due to optics. As executive producer, Richards clearly had a hand in choosing the show’s next presenter despite reports that he stepped away from the process when he became a candidate. That announcement made the weeks of interim hosting feel less like a tryout process and more like stepping stones en route to Richards’ inevitable coronation.
Criticism only worsened after The Ringer published a lengthy story earlier this week detailing Richards’ history of discriminatory language. Many of these incidents involved sexist, racist, and anti-Semitic remarks on his personal podcast, The Randumb Show, but he was also named in at least two discrimination lawsuits during his time as executive producer of The Price is Right that alleged mistreatment of the game show’s female employees.
In one, former The Price is Right model Brandi Cochran claimed she had been given fewer opportunities on the show after Richards found out about her pregnancy. Indeed, her contract with the program was terminated after she gave birth. Cochran also alleged Richards decided that the game show’s female models should wear short skirts and bikinis more frequently.
When these claims were brought to light by The Daily Beast earlier this month, Richards told Jeopardy! staff that the statements made about him in the lawsuit didn’t reflect reality.
Despite becoming too radioactive for the front-facing hosting job, Richards will apparently stay on at Jeopardy! as an executive producer. Sony Pictures Television has resumed its search for a permanent syndication host to join The Big Bang Theory actor and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik, who was previously chosen alongside Richards to lead primetime Jeopardy! specials and spin-offs.
Just please, Sony, literally anyone but Mehmet “Doctor” Oz.