Mike Richards has announced he won't be hosting Jeopardy!, days after reports detailed sexist and other inappropriate comments he made in his former role as a podcast host.
"I will be stepping down as host effective immediately," Richards said in an email to staff that was provided to NPR on Friday.
Richards' remarks in a podcast dating from his stint at The Price Is Right put his new hosting gig in peril, coming on the heels of earlier allegations of a hostile work environment, as well as how questions about how the quiz show's executive producer was chosen for the coveted hosting role.
"We support Mike's decision to step down as host," a Sony Pictures Television spokesperson said in an email to NPR. "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."
Richards will remain in his role leading the show. The company spokesperson added, "It is our hope that as EP he will continue to do so with professionalism and respect."
Host selection raised many questions
Richards stepped down from his new role just a week after Sony Pictures Television said he would become the new host of the daily program, with actor Mayim Bialik also named the host of a Jeopardy! prime-time series and spinoffs.
The choice had set off a raft of questions, particularly after the venerable franchise attracted a wide range of candidates who guest-hosted during a highly publicized search for Trebek's replacement.
With Richards relinquishing his hosting duties, the show's producers will resume their search for a new host.
"In the meantime, we will be bringing back guest hosts to continue production for the new season," Richards said in his message to the staff.
Richards said in his message that he had been honored to be tapped to fill the role that was defined by the late Alex Trebek.
"It pains me that these past incidents and comments have cast such a shadow on Jeopardy! as we look to start a new chapter," he said.
Episodes featuring Richards as the host – including five that were taped on Thursday – will air as scheduled.
Controversy intensified when an old podcast resurfaced
Richards came under added scrutiny this week, when The Ringer reported that from 2013 to 2014, when Richards hosted a podcast called The Randumb Show, he "repeatedly used offensive language and disparaged women's bodies."
The podcast had been created as a look behind the curtains of The Price Is Right show that Richards was then helping to lead. The podcast was taken down shortly after The Ringer reached out for comment about it, and Richards issued an apology in a statement that also sought to do damage control.
"It is humbling to confront a terribly embarrassing moment of misjudgment, thoughtlessness, and insensitivity from nearly a decade ago," Richards was quoted as saying. "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," he said, adding that the results were "not acceptable."
Read Richards' message to the show's staff
Here's Richards' full internal note to staff, which the show says should serve as his public 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.
A MARTINEZ, HOST:
"Jeopardy's" new-host search continues. I know you thought it had just ended. In a splashy announcement last week, Mike Richards, the show's executive producer, was named one of the two new successors to the late Alex Trebek. A seasoned veteran of the game show business and also an on-air and behind-the-scenes veteran, Richards seemed like a safe, reliable choice, but controversial comments he made about female colleagues in the past became even more of a problem when audio recordings from past podcasts went viral this week. Earlier today, Richards resigned before he even began. Joining us now is NPR's Eric Deggans. Eric, so what did Mike Richards say in his resignation letter?
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Basically, this letter was a note to the staff that was released by Sony Pictures. And it basically said that he felt that the controversies had become too much of a distraction for the fans and, quote, "not the right move for the show." So he announced he'd be stepping down as host effective immediately. They're going to resume their search for a guest host - or they're going to resume their search for a permanent host. And they're going to develop a roster of guest hosts that they will announce next week.
MARTINEZ: Why had there been a lot of debate over the choice of Mike Richards to begin with?
DEGGANS: Well, he was executive producer of the show. And there seemed to be a great show made of bringing on guest hosts, some of whom at least seemed to be contenders for the main job. And to audition this wide range of people - there were women and people of color included; there was a fan initiative that got LeVar Burton, for example, added to the roster of guest host because he was a favorite of many fans of the show and people watching this process - to go through all of that and then pick the guy who, ostensibly, was in charge of finding (laughter) the placement...
DEGGANS: ...I think some people felt maybe that process wasn't as fair as it could have been.
MARTINEZ: And Aaron Rodgers might not be the Packers quarterback right now if the process had been different.
MARTINEZ: The comments that Richard made that went viral - they're recordings from past podcast conversations. What did he say there?
DEGGANS: Well, he was joking - he was making jokes that referred to the weight and the appearance of some women. He made a joke that referenced something about being Jewish that also was very insulting. You know, these were the kind of comments. And they connected to the fact that, you know, Mike Richards was also executive producer of "The Price Is Right." That show was - faced several lawsuits from women who worked on the show who said that they were discriminated against when they got pregnant. And so there was already this question about, you know, how does he develop a workplace that's friendly to women or that deals with women? And then to have this podcast come out where he said these kinds of comments just added to the controversy.
MARTINEZ: Quickly, where does the show go from here?
DEGGANS: They've got to find a new permanent host, and I think they've got to pay more attention to what people watching the process think about what they've done. They can't just bring in an insider. They have to really pay attention. People seemed to indicate that they wanted diversity and they wanted a sense that they were paying attention to who the fans like. Mayim Bialik was chosen to sort of be a backup host and host specials and things like that. Perhaps she could step up. We'll see. They have to refine their process and make it better.
MARTINEZ: NPR's Eric Deggans. Eric, thanks.
DEGGANS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.