Mike Richards, who was named host of the popular game show Jeopardy! just nine days ago, is stepping down after a report that he used offensive language and disparaged women’s bodies in a podcast.
“It pains me that these past incidents and comments have cast such a shadow on Jeopardy! as we look to start a new chapter,” Richards said in a note to the show’s staff on Friday.
“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.”
Sony Pictures Television said last week that Richards, who was already executive producer of Jeopardy!, would become the full-time host of the long-running quiz show, which is starting its 38th season in its current incarnation.
The show’s longtime host, Alex Trebek, died in November after a battle with cancer, and Sony had invited various celebrities to try out to replace him before ultimately choosing Richards.
But a report this week by The Ringer, a sports and pop culture website, detailed Richards’s past comments during a podcast he had hosted from 2013 to 2014. On Thursday, the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement saying that his “disparaging remarks about Jews, women and Asians are no laughing matter” and called for an investigation.
Richards said Sony will resume the search for a permanent syndicated host and will bring back guest hosts to continue production for the new season.
A spokesperson for Sony Pictures Television said the company was “surprised” to learn of his past comments. He will continue as executive producer, the studio said.
The choice of Richards was controversial even before the report about the podcast. There were accusations of discrimination against pregnant women and inappropriate comments made to models when he supervised The Price is Right. Richards denied the allegations.
A series of guest hosts that included actor LeVar Burton and Jeopardy! winner Ken Jennings proved popular with fans. In announcing Richards’s appointment last week, Sony also said that The Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik, another fan favorite, will host a prime-time version on ABC. The reaction on social media to Richards’s appointment was largely negative.
“Happy Friday, y’all,” Burton said on Twitter after the announcement that Richards would no longer be the host.
- Additional reporting by Bloomberg