The New Host of “Jeopardy!” Should Probably Go Ahead and Step Down

Sexist and other controversial comments Mike Richards made on a 2014 podcast have recently come to light

Mike Richards accepts the award for outstanding game show for The Price is Right at the 2016 Daytime Emmy Awards. The producer has been announced as the new host of Jeopardy! but a tainted past including offensive podcast comments have come to light.
Mike Richards accepts the award for outstanding game show for "The Price Is Right" at the 2016 Daytime Emmy Awards.

Update: Mike Richards has stepped as the next host, according to a memo leaked this morning.

Even before Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards was revealed to be the new permanent host, news of his problematic past — which included several gender discrimination lawsuits from his time at The Price Is Right — surfaced. Now, however, it appears that was just the tip of the iceberg. According to a new report by The Ringer, Richards made offensive comments on a podcast he hosted in 2014 about women, Jewish people, Haitians, little people and homeless people, and also seemed to be heavily involved in the host selection process that ultimately led to his own appointment.

You can read the full comments here, but they include remarks about how one-piece bathing suits make women appear overweight and frumpy, a comment about Jewish people’s noses, the use of slurs to refer to little people and people with intellectual disabilities, and tasteless comments about unhoused people and those who receive unemployment benefits (despite, as The Ringer points out, the fact that Richards himself received government assistance in the form of “a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan for $127,906 in May 2020, as well as a COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan for $150,000 later that year”). 

“It is humbling to confront a terribly embarrassing moment of misjudgment, thoughtlessness, and insensitivity from nearly a decade ago,” Richards said in a statement. “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.”

The podcast comments aside, the article highlights concerns over Richards’s conflict of interest in the host search. According to The New York TimesRichards alone was in charge of selecting the guest host episodes that were sent to focus groups for review. As The Ringer notes, “the show’s two supervising producers, Lisa Broffman and Rocky Schmidt, who are both in their fourth decade working on the show, were excluded from the process.”

As executive producer, Richards also wielded power over the other guest hosts, giving them notes on their performance. “He was the one rehearsing and giving direction to all the guest hosts, who may not have realized they were competing with him for the job,” a Sony employee familiar with the host search told The Ringer. “He could influence the promotion of those shows and the respective guest hosts. He had personal relationships with the executives involved, who had entrusted the show to him a year before.”

It’s clear from his past that Richards in no way embodies the spirit of the show, and to hand the keys to a program that celebrates knowledge to someone so ignorant feels like a stain on its legacy. When we also factor in that he very well may have rigged the host selection process in his own favor to get the gig, it’s painfully obvious that he’s not a suitable host. He should do the respectful thing and bow out now.

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