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."
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.
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."
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.
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