It’s been a dramatic few weeks for what is usually a relaxing trivia show. After much controversy surrounding the hiring of Mike Richards as the new Jeopardy! host, Richards has decided to step down from the gig before it even began. The decision was confirmed in an internal memo Richards sent to Jeopardy! staffers on Aug. 20 that was also released to the press.
But the news isn’t just the fact that Richards will not longer be the host but the timing of the announcement, as well. Jeopardy! was just beginning production for Season 38, and now that Richards won’t be hosting, someone else will need to step in to take on the role. Read on to find out more about why Richards stepped down and for who will be hosting Jeopardy! instead.
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Richards faced serious backlash after being hired.
Richards, who is also the executive producer of Jeopardy!, was reported to be in talks to be the new host of Jeopardy! in an Aug. 4 Variety article. (He had previously guest hosted the show in February and March.) The following day, past lawsuits that Richards was involved with resurfaced. The lawsuits involved The Price Is Right models making claims of discrimination during the time that Richards worked as an executive producer on the show.
Richards commented on the lawsuits in an internal memo at Jeopardy!. “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,” he wrote, as reported by CNN.
He also made several offensive comments on his podcast.
On Aug. 11, it was made official that Richards would be the new host of the syndicated program while actor Mayim Bialik would host Jeopardy! specials. But the problems for Richards didn’t stop with the announcement. On Aug. 18, The Ringer reported that Richards made offensive comments, including about women, Jewish people, and unhoused people, while hosting his podcast The Randumb Show in 2013 and 2014.
“It is humbling to confront a terribly embarrassing moment of misjudgment, thoughtlessness, and insensitivity from nearly a decade ago,” he said in a statement to The Ringer. “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. 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.”
On top of that, there’s the fact that he already worked for the show.
While it has been reported that Richards did not actually hire himself to host as executive producer of the show, to fans it still appeared that way, which caused more backlash. Fans were also angered that the group of guest hosts featured over the past several months was diverse, but Jeopardy! still went with a white man—one who already worked for the show—as its choice.
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Now, a new host must be selected.
In the new internal note, Richards stepped down and shared the plan for the show going forward.
“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,” he wrote. “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.”
He added that Sony Pictures Television “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.” So, Season 38 will continue in the way Season 37 did, with guest hosts for now, rather than a new permanent host being chosen right away.
“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,” Richards ended his statement to the staff. “I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your trust and confidence.”
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