After Jeopardy! has been guest-hosted by a diverse slate of talent from the worlds of entertainment, news, sports, and medicine, Sony seems to be settling for who they probably thought was the safest choice for Alex Trebek’s successor: current Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards. However, Richards’ rich experience on game shows seems to be accompanied by plenty of unsavory incidents, including a discrimination lawsuit.
During his time as co-executive producer on The Price Is Right in 2010, model Brandi Cochran filed a lawsuit against CBS and FremantleMedia for discrimination due to her pregnancy. Cochran alleged that she received unfair treatment and less work after executives learned she was pregnant with twins. After her child’s birth (she lost one of the twins due to a miscarriage) she was not invited back on the show.
According to the suit, Richards publicly bemoaned Cochran’s pregnancy at a holiday party, stating, “Go figure, I fire five models, what are the odds one of the ones that I keep gets pregnant?” Cochran kept her pregnancy a secret for as long as she could, but after Richard learned of it he allegedly “put his head in his hands,” later barging up to her and saying, “Twins? Are you kidding? Are you serious?”
The suit additionally states that as executive producer, “Richards decided that the models’ skirts should be shorter and said that he liked the models to look as if they were going out on a date. At his suggestion, models wore bikinis on the show more frequently.” Cochran was awarded $7.7 million in punitive damages in the suit.
In another suit from 2011, model Lanisha Cole sued Richards (who was named along with another producer named Adam Sandler and Fremantle Media) for sexual harassment and wrongful termination. Among other incidents that occurred on set, Cole alleged that she was berated by Sandler for not wearing a microphone and that Richards completely refused to talk to her at all while at work. Any communication between them would only happen through her colleagues. Cole ultimately quit the show because production never investigated her claims. The suit was settled in 2013 after Richards was dismissed as a defendant.
Richards joined Jeopardy as executive producer last year after a decade at The Price Is Right and Let’s Make a Deal. While his resume is filled with hosting experience on shows such as The Pyramid, The CW’s High School Reunion, and The WB Network’s Beauty and the Geek, this doesn’t do anything for longtime fans, who see this moment as an opportunity to bring in someone outside of the Jeopardy fold. (Fans would have also likely preferred someone who has not been accused of discrimination.)