When Alex Trebek, the beloved Jeopardy! host of 37 years, died in 2020, finding someone to fill his shoes seemed impossible. After lengthy trials with many guest hosts vying for the role, executives landed on Mike Richards, one of the show’s executive producers, and The Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik. While Bialik has largely had a warm welcome among Jeopardy! fans, Richards’ transition hasn’t been as smooth. In addition to lawsuits from Richards’ time executive producing The Price Is Right that recently resurfaced, his old podcast recordings in which he made disparaging remarks about women and race, among other things, are also being reexamined. To see why Richards is under fire and how he responded, read on.
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Richards made offensive comments about women and their bodies during a 2014 episode of his podcast.
In the early 2010s, before Richards was selected to be the host of Jeopardy!, he hosted a podcast called The Randumb Show. The Ringer’s Claire McNear reviewed all 41 episodes of the podcast and found a slew of offensive comments on various subjects.
On a Sept. 2014 episode, for example, following the massive iCloud photo hack that exposed intimate images of many young famous women, Richards asked his co-host Beth Triffon, a much younger woman, if she’d ever taken a nude picture. After saying that she hadn’t, Richards accused her of lying. “I’ve taken, like, cute pictures of myself,” she said, explaining that they were not nude. Richards later asked if he could go through her phone, and after she declined, he asked if she had photos of her breasts saved on it.
Richards often commented on Triffon’s friends appearance and weight, according to McNear. On one episode she detailed, Triffon noted that she worked as a model at a trade show, and Richards called her multiple offensive names as a result, including a “booth ho.” On another episode, Triffon showed Richards a photo of her and her friends in swimsuits. He said that the one-piece bathing suits made her friends “genuinely unattractive” and “really frumpy and overweight.” After Triffon insisted her friends weren’t overweight, Richards said, “But they all look terrible in the picture. They look fat and not good in the picture. It’s bad.” Triffon said Richards would feel differently when he saw her friend in person, and he responded that he would say hello and then “give her a smack.”
He also made anti-Semitic and racist comments.
On another episode of the podcast, Richards made an anti-Semitic comment. The Ringer reports that after a guest said something non specific about big noses, Richards made a comment in pig Latin about Jewish people. “Ix-nay on the ose-nay. She’s not an ew-Jay,” he said.
During an episode where Triffon described some struggles with her apartment, Richards equated her experience to that of people in Haiti. According to The Ringer, Richards said, “Does Beth live, like, in Haiti? Doesn’t it sound like that? Like, the urine smell, the woman in the muumuu, the stray cats.”
On another episode, Richards said he was cheering for Survivor host Jeff Probst “because I like, you know, the average white-guy host.” He added, “I cheer for him to succeed because I feel like through his success I could have some success hosting.” And during another installment, Richards said he thinks it’s great that Ryan Seacrest has “actually made the world a safer place for what I like to call the ‘skinny white host.'”
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Richards also condemned his co-host for giving money to a homeless person.
When Triffon told Richards she qualified for unemployment after losing a job on one episode, he then ridiculed unemployment. A couple of months later, Triffon told a story about giving a dollar to a woman on the street, which Richards took issue with. He said, “Oh my god. You’re perpetuating the circle…If you gave away money that was given to you by the government. That’s the circle of no life.”
Triffon responded, “No, Mike, it was just a dollar.” He shot back, “That’s the sound of America going down the toilet.”
“I thought that she needed it, so she could get some coffee or some food,” Triffon said. “Or some crack! Or some meth!” he retorted.
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Richards has since issued an apology.
The Ringer said just hours after they asked Sony Pictures Television, which produces Jeopardy!, and Richards’ agents about the podcast, the audio of every episode was stripped from the internet, and the podcast’s site was erased. Richards then issued a statement to The Ringer. “It is humbling to confront a terribly embarrassing moment of misjudgment, thoughtlessness, and insensitivity from nearly a decade ago,” he said. “Looking back now, there is no excuse, of course, for the comments I made on this podcast, and I am deeply sorry.”
He added that “the podcast was intended to be a series of irreverent conversations between longtime friends who had a history of joking around.” (Triffon did not respond to The Ringer’s multiple requests for a comment.) However, he said it’s now clear his “attempts to be funny and provocative were not acceptable, and I have removed the episodes.”
Richards went on to describe where he is now in life. “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,” he said.
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