Remains exec producer of show and Wheel Of Fortune
After numerous episodes of an old podcast surfaced a few days ago, Mike Richards – who self-appointed himself as host of Jeopardy! after a long search has stepped down after nine days. The decision to move aside came after The Ringer published excerpts from a podcast he produced and hosted called Randumb in 2013 and 2014.
In a report published Wednesday evening, The Ringer’s Claire McNear detailed the sexist, anti-Semitic, and racist comments Richards made in all 41 podcasts he was on. The report caught the attention of the Anti-Defamation League, who criticized producer Sony Pictures Television for his behavior (CBS Media Ventures, who syndicates Jeopardy! for Sony, has no creative control over the show.)
Despite the controversy, Richards remains executive producer of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune – for now. He was moved into the position just two years ago after the retirement of longtime executive producer Harry Friedman. And yes, this means he’ll oversee yet another host search.
The search of a new host came after Alex Trebek’s passing in November from pancreatic cancer, which he was diagnosed with in 2019. But instead of having a successor plan in place, Sony decided to trot out a parade of guest hosts as on-air tryouts – including Richards himself – which basically became a farce. Two weeks ago, Richards was named host of the daily version (with Mayim Bialik hosting prime-time specials for ABC), soliciting outrage from the Jeopardy! fan base suspecting Richards was planning to be host all along and the guest-host tryout was a stunt. For Chicago radio observers, this brought back memories of a similar stunt the now-defunct WLUP-FM tried in 2015 to fill their vacant morning host position.
While Sony officials claimed to be in the dark about his podcast, they certainly knew of the lawsuits against him while he was executive producer of The Price Is Right a decade ago when he and others at the show were accused of discriminating against models who became pregnant at the time they were working on the show.
Taping began Thursday on Jeopardy’s new season with the first five episodes taped with Richards as host. But planned tapings for Friday were canceled after he stepped down. Now fans will have to go through this process all over again, and given all of this controversy, you can’t be too sure of how much more they can take. Just grab Ken Jennings, Howie Mandel, or Craig Ferguson and be done with it because the damage has been done.
The way Sony has bungled this entire process, this is not honoring or respecting Alex Trebek’s legacy. It’s spitting on it.