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‘Jeopardy!’ severs ties with executive producer Mike Richards after podcast controversy

Mike Richards, former “Jeopardy!” executive producer. (Jeopardy/Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)
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“Jeopardy!” has permanently severed ties with its executive producer Mike Richards, less than two weeks after he stepped down as the new host of the show, following the revelation of several offensive comments he made on his former podcast. He will also no longer be executive producer of “Wheel of Fortune.”

Suzanne Prete, executive vice president for business and strategy for both game shows, made the announcement in an email to staff on Tuesday.

“We had hoped that when Mike stepped down from the host position at Jeopardy! it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks. That clearly has not happened,” she said.

Prete added that Michael Davies from the production company Embassy Row will help with production “on an interim basis until further notice” as the show heads into its 38th season this fall.

“I know this has been a challenging time for the entire team, and I want to thank you all for your cooperation and professionalism over these last few weeks,” she concluded.

For a 57-year-old quiz show known for minimal drama, the last month has been one of the most tumultuous times in its history — and one of the more baffling TV debacles in recent memory. Richards, 46, who joined the show as executive producer last year after longtime executive producer Harry Friedman exited the role, was part of the team searching for a new host after the beloved Alex Trebek died last November. Richards himself stepped in for a couple weeks amid a long string of celebrity guest hosts, including Ken Jennings, Katie Couric, Anderson Cooper and LeVar Burton.

So when Richards was named the daily syndicated host on Aug. 11, alongside Mayim Bialik as host of the show’s prime-time specials, there was plenty of surprise (“Who is Mike Richards?” was a popular comment), as well as jokes comparing him to former vice president Richard B. Cheney, who led George W. Bush’s search committee for vice president and chose himself. Fans also recirculated articles about two models at “The Price Is Right,” where Richards was executive producer, who named him in wrongful termination and pregnancy discrimination lawsuits.

But his stint as host lasted only about a week. Claire McNear, a reporter for the Ringer who wrote a book about “Jeopardy!” last year, published a bombshell report that revealed Richards had hosted a podcast in 2013 in which he made remarks about women’s bodies; joked about Jewish people and big noses; and asked whether someone’s apartment was in Haiti because of “the urine smell, the woman in the muumuu, the stray cats.”

Richards released an apology, but the following week, he announced he was stepping down as host. A Sony statement emphasized that he would stay on as executive producer, and said the hope was he would continue in the role “with professionalism and respect.”

But more details emerged: McNear cited sources saying morale among “Jeopardy!” staff had “deteriorated” during Richards’s tenure. The New York Times, which reported that Richards had steered the search for a host in his own direction, wrote last week that Sony appeared committed to keeping Richards, who would have to go through sensitivity training and have Prete as a “minder” of sorts, overseeing his day-to-day actions on set.

And now he is gone, effective immediately. However, he already taped five episodes. Even after all the brouhaha, Sony confirmed those episodes will air when the show returns on Sept. 13.

Read more:

Is Mayim Bialik’s dubious science going to be ‘Jeopardy!’s’ next big headache?

Mike Richards steps down as ‘Jeopardy!’ host in wake of resurfaced offensive comments

How journalism saved ‘Jeopardy!’ from an unworthy host after an utter failure of corporate vetting