Mike Richards, who since his announcement as presumptive Jeopardy! host has faced a series of damning revelations about his past on shows including The Price Is Right, has stepped down. The search for Alex Trebek’s replacement has begun anew.
Jeopardy! had spent months “auditioning” a steady rotation of famous guest hosts before news broke earlier this month that Richards would split hosting duties with Mayim Bialik, who will host the franchise’s primetime and spin-off series.
A person familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast on Friday that Bialik is not in a position to take on Richards’ gig owing to her sitcom commitments.
In a memo to staff Friday morning, Richards wrote:
It pains me that these past incidents and comments have cast such a shadow on Jeopardy! as we look to start a new chapter.
As I mentioned last week, I was deeply honored to be asked to host the syndicated show and was thrilled by the opportunity to expand my role. However, 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. As such, I will be stepping down as host effective immediately. As a result, we will be canceling production today.
SPT will now resume the search for a permanent syndicated host. In the meantime, we will be bringing back guest hosts to continue production for the new season, details of which will be announced next week.
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.
During his own turn as guest host, Richards had proven capable and popular among fans—but his selection nonetheless made turns from stars like LeVar Burton feel like theater. Even worse, easily searchable and highly shady details from Richards’ past emerged almost immediately.
Richards, who has been forced to address various allegations before his first episode even aired, had just begun filming episodes as Jeopardy! host when the Anti-Defamation League called for an investigation into his past disparaging comments about Jews, women, and Asians.
In 2019, Richards signed a multi-year deal with Sony, which produces both Jeopardy! and its longtime companion Wheel of Fortune. Before he became executive producer for both of those series, he served as E.P. on The Price Is Right—which faced multiple harassment and discrimination lawsuits from models during his tenure.
News outlets uncovered the lawsuits almost immediately after Richards’ selection—which prompted the first of multiple statements Richards would release in the coming weeks. In an internal memo also shared with news outlets soon after the lawsuits became mainstream news, Richards told staff members, “I want you all to know that the way in which my comments and actions have been characterized in these complaints does not reflect the reality of who I am or how we worked together on The Price is Right.”
But then came an even more troubling report from The Ringer, which unearthed a bevy of offensive comments Richards made on his behind-the-scenes Price Is Right podcast “The Randumb Show,” which he hosted from 2013 to 2014. Examples of Richards’ “humor” included calling his female co-host’s friends “really frumpy and overweight” and, after someone made a comment about big noses, saying, “Ixnay on the ose-nay. She’s not an ew-Jay.”
“Concerns about Richards extend to the Jeopardy! staff,” reporter Claire McNear added, “with a source close to the show telling The Ringer that employees were blindsided by Sony’s announcement and multiple sources describing how staff morale has deteriorated under Richards’s watch as EP.”
So Richards issued another apology on Wednesday. In a statement he said the podcast was “intended to be a series of irreverent conversations between longtime friends who had a history of joking around.”
“Even with the passage of time,” he added, “it’s more than clear that my attempts to be funny and provocative were not acceptable, and I have removed the episodes.”
Evidently, however, a statement was not enough. The allegations have become an ongoing topic of conversation on social media, and the discussion has permeated mainstream discourse enough to land on the ultimate cultural barometer: late-night. As Stephen Colbert put it Thursday night, “the big story everyone is talking about right now continues to be the chaos surrounding the poorly handled regime change over at Jeopardy!”
As bemused as Colbert was by the many sordid allegations surrounding Richards, he seemed to find the host’s “apology” just as fascinating. As Colbert put it, Richards seemed to be assuming about as much culpability as a neighbor who tells you, “I know I drove drunk and plowed through your rose garden, and to prove I’m sorry, I recycled my empty liquor bottles.”
Additional reporting by Lachlan Cartwright