Less than a day after the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called for an investigation into what they said was a "pattern" of offensive comments made while he was a host of The Randumb Show podcast (from 2013 to 2014), Mike Richards is out as the host of the long-running game show Jeopardy! Richards' comments were the subject of a report on the news website The Ringer, which cited examples of repeated use of offensive language, disparaging comments about women's bodies, and more. Richards' comments coming to light was just the latest in a series of clouds surrounding his selection and the legitimacy of the process that was rolled out to find a successor to the late Alex Trebek- with reports that Sony felt it could not move forward with someone to take on the mantle of host with an image that is "too battered" at this point.
"We support Mike's decision to step down as host. We were surprised this week to learn of Mike's 2013/2014 podcast and the offensive language he used in the past. We have spoken with him about our concerns and our expectations moving forward," a Sony Pictures TV spokesperson said this morning. "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."
For his part, Richards sent a memo to the show's staff, writing, 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."
In a statement issued via Twitter by the ADL yesterday: "New Jeopardy! host Mike Richards' disparaging remarks about Jews, women & Asians are no laughing matter. Stereotyping is an entry point to hate and his apology lacks acknowledgment of its harm. This reported pattern warrants an investigation." Along with the examples noted in our previous coverage, writer/author Claire McNear also cited examples of offensive & sexist comments to his female co-hosts (calling one of his co-hosts a "booth slut" for her CES promotional work) as well as other offensive comments about Haitians and Jewish people (comments that played up physical stereotypes about Jewish people) in their report. Here's a look at two more examples cited by McNear in their report:
In an episode published on September 4, 2014, after the iCloud photo hack, which exposed intimate images of numerous female celebrities, Richards asked his assistant and his cohost—both much younger women—whether they had ever taken nude photos. When his cohost said that she had sometimes taken photos of herself when she thought she looked cute, Richards responded, "Like booby pictures? What are we looking at?" Later, he asked to go through her phone; when she declined to share an image with him, he asked whether it was "of [her] boobies."
On another 2014 episode, Richards said that one-piece swimsuits made women look "really frumpy and overweight," echoing the portion of Cochran's lawsuit that mentions Richards's preferences about swimwear.
Not long after Sony and Richards' agents were asked to comment on their reporting, The Ringer noted that the audio of every episode was taken down and the podcast's hosting site was deleted. While Sony has not officially commented on the reporting, The Ringer also alleges that a Sony source revealed to them that the studio was unaware of the podcast recordings until Sony was contacted to comment on them. For his part, Richards emailed The Ringer a statement regarding his comments and actions while hosting the podcast.
"It is humbling to confront a terribly embarrassing moment of misjudgment, thoughtlessness, and insensitivity from nearly a decade ago. Looking back now, there is no excuse, of course, for the comments I made on this podcast and I am deeply sorry. The podcast was intended to be a series of irreverent conversations between longtime friends who had a history of joking around," the Jeopardy! host wrote. "Even with the passage of time, it's more than clear that my attempts to be funny and provocative were not acceptable, and I have removed the episodes. My responsibilities today as a father, husband, and a public personality who speaks to many people through my role on television means I have substantial and serious obligations as a role model, and I intend to live up to them."
Earlier this month, reports surfaced that Richards was "in advanced negotiations" with Sony Pictures TV to be the long-running game show's permanent host (though a final deal was not officially in place at the time). Shortly after, Richards' involvement in past lawsuits involving The Price is Right models Brandi Cochran, Lanisha Cole, and others during his time producing the Bob Barker and Drew Carrey-hosted game show came to light on social media before news sites then began to cover the matter (you can look back on our coverage here). Richards addressed both the hosting rumors and the allegations leveled against him in those past lawsuits via a memo sent to Jeopardy! employees (which Variety obtained). Regarding the allegations, Richards claimed his "comments and actions have been characterized" and that the allegations in the complaints don't "reflect the reality of who I am or how we worked together on 'The Price is Right.'"
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