The A.V. Club has a lot of Jeopardy! opinions. But one we’ve all shared in recent weeks is how much goodwill Sony, the show, and its producers have squandered in the confusing decision to name Mike Richards its next host. The former Price Is Right producer seemingly came out of nowhere as the frontrunner and heir apparent to the late Alex Trebek’s podium. And as we learned more about the man, Sony’s decision to name him host felt more and more like a horrible idea, an idea that seems to have come directly from Mike Richards.
Adding to the list of infractions, which includes allegations of workplace discrimination made against Richards during his time at The Price Is Right, a new exposé from The Ringer paints an increasingly ugly picture of the man. What’s more, is the overarching feeling that this Jeopardy! the executive producer simply gave himself the job, even though there were better, more suitable hosts, like LeVar Burton and Aaron Rodgers. And that’s not just coming from us, Jeopardy! insiders, who Ringer writer Claire McNear spoke to for the piece, agree:
“It’s unfortunate that guest hosts like Aaron Rodgers and LeVar Burton really put themselves out there in terms of openly wanting the job and for Rodgers in particular, discussing the extraordinary amount of effort to which he went to prepare for his turn, when it’s not clear anyone besides Richards ever had a real chance at the main role,” said Kristin Sausville, a five-time Jeopardy! champion. “Rodgers and Burton were clear about how important Jeopardy! was to them personally. Given that he also was a candidate to host The Price Is Right, it looks like Richards just wanted to host a game show, any game show.”
Richards’ conduct at The Price Of Right led to two workplace discrimination lawsuits; both settled out of court. These suits “focused on the mistreatment of female employees by Price’s male leadership, including Richards.” For example, according to Price Is Right model Brandi Cochran’s 2010 lawsuit against the show, Richards cracked jokes about how he would’ve fired Cochran had he known about her pregnancy ahead of time and “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.”
While Richards sent a defense of himself to the Jeopardy! staff, claiming that his “comments and actions have been characterized in these complaints does not reflect the reality of who I am or how we worked together on The Price is Right.” Unfortunately, he recorded similar statements on his embarrassingly titled podcast The Randumb Show, which The Ringer listened to all 41 episodes of, so you don’t have to. To sum up:
In an episode published on September 4, 2014, after the iCloud photo hack, which exposed intimate images of numerous female celebrities, Richards asked his assistant and his cohost—both much younger women—whether they had ever taken nude photos. When his cohost said that she had sometimes taken photos of herself when she thought she looked cute, Richards responded, “Like booby pictures? What are we looking at?” Later, he asked to go through her phone; when she declined to share an image with him, he asked whether it was “of [her] boobies.”
On another 2014 episode, Richards said that one-piece swimsuits made women look “really frumpy and overweight,” echoing the portion of Cochran’s lawsuit that mentions Richards’s preferences about swimwear.
Richards issued a statement on the show to The Ringer, which is more or less what you’d expect: “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.” To be clear, when the episode in question was published, Mike Richards was 39-years-old.
Nevertheless, throughout the run of The Randumb Show, he continued to make sexist comments, calling his cohost and former assistant Beth Triffon a “booth ho,” “booth slut,” and “boothstitute” for working as a model at the CES tradeshow. Then, of course, there were also the times he referred to little people as the M-word, dropped the R-word, and made antisemitic and classist remarks.
The search for Trebek’s replacement gets even shadier as “Richards controlled nearly everything about Jeopardy!’s most recent season.” One Ringer source claims that 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.” It doesn’t take a Jeopardy! champion to determine that there’s a conflict of interest there.
The Ringer piece is very much worth your time, especially if you planned on watching the next iteration of Jeopardy!. But Price Is Right producer sums it up pretty well:
Of all the people we were trying out, he had the least professional experience. He knew all the right words to say, but he did not bring anything special, personality or performance-wise, to the test show. His performance was compared to that of an eager student performing in a college show and putting on his best impersonation of what he thinks a game show host is.
At least they have Mayim Bialik waiting in the wings. Nothing controversial about her.