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Answer: The very briefly appointed host of Jeopardy!
Mike Richards will not become the new permanent host of the iconic daytime game show after all.
Producer Sony Pictures Television announced the embattled Richards — who is also the show’s executive producer — was stepping down from the role.
The upcoming season of Jeopardy! actually started filming Thursday with Richards as host, but on Friday morning he released the following statement:
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 addition, Sony released the following statement which confirmed that Richards will continue on as the show’s executive producer, if not as Alex Trebek’s successor: “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. 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.”
Sony also confirmed the episodes Richards shot on Thursday will still air during the upcoming season as scheduled, followed by a rotation of guest hosts until a new permanent host is selected.
The move follows a report by The Ringer on Wednesday that resurfaced derogatory comments made by Richards on his podcast, The Randumb Show, in 2013-14, including mocking women’s weight, calling one model a “booth slut” and repeatedly praising “the average white-guy host.”
On Thursday, the Anti-Defamation League called for an investigation into Richards’ comments.
Richards was announced as the show’s host just last week but immediately received considerable backlash given that his producing position on the show evoked suspicions that he’d appointed himself — or, at least, tipped the scales in his favor. He also seemed to be a left-field choice after a slew of better-known talents guest-hosted following Trebek’s death last November. Adding to the controversy, Richards was the subject of a discrimination bias lawsuit during his time as executive producer of The Price Is Right.
When Richards was announced as the new daytime host, Sony also appointed Big Bang Theory alum Mayim Bialik as the host of the Jeopardy! primetime specials and spinoff series.
Other guest hosts who were originally in the mix to replace Trebek included fan-favorite LeVar Burton and former Jeopardy! champs David Faber, Buzzy Cohen and Ken Jennings as well as Savannah Guthrie, Sanjay Gupta, Anderson Cooper, Bialik, Aaron Rodgers, Dr. Oz, Katie Couric, George Stephanopoulos, Robin Roberts and Joe Buck.
Richards previously issued a statement about his podcast comments: “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. 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.”
Ravi Ahuja, chairman of global television studios and corporate development for Sony Pictures, previously issued this rationale for Richards’ hiring: “We took this decision incredibly seriously. A tremendous amount of work and deliberation has gone into it, perhaps more than has ever gone into the selection of hosts for a show — deservedly so because it’s Jeopardy! and we are following the incomparable Alex Trebek. A senior group of Sony Pictures Television executives pored over footage from every episode, reviewed research from multiple panels and focus groups, and got valuable input from our key partners and Jeopardy! viewers. We knew early on that we wanted to divide the hosting responsibilities and it became very clear that Mike and Mayim were the undeniable choices. They were both at the top of our research and analysis. Mike is a unique talent, at ease behind the podium and a double threat as producer and host.”
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