UPDATED: 10:55 a.m. ET, Aug. 20
Originally published on Aug. 11
The recently selected new host of popular TV trivia game show “Jeopardy!” has stepped down before he even started following widespread outrage and backlash after it was revealed he has an alleged history of harassing and discriminating against women as well as making racist and otherwise insensitive comments.
The selection of Mike Richards, who was already working as the executive producer of “Jeopardy!”, was effectively a snub to fans of LeVar Burton who wanted the actor to land the job. Richards announced Friday morning in a note to his staff that he planned on quitting hosting duties effective immediately.
“I was deeply honored to be asked to host the syndicated show and was thrilled by the opportunity to expand my role” Richards wrote in part, contradicting reports that he chose himself following televised auditions alongside fellow hopefuls including Burton. “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.”
The show had been looking for a permanent replacement for Alex Trebek after the longtime host died in November.
Instead of Burton, the show chose to go with Mike Richards, who is already the executive producer of “Jeopardy!”
Actress Mayim Bialik, known for her starring role on the 1980s sitcom “Blossom” and other TV shows, will also host the shown in a separate capacity.
The pair was a curious choice considering fans seemingly expressed the most excitement during Burton’s stint hosting the “Jeopardy!” last month as he and other hopefuls were given week-long duties that essentially served as auditions for the permanent hosting gig.
In a candid interview with the Associated Press, Burton said hosting was a bit “scary” initially but became fun. Burton found his stride with his wife, make-up artist Stephanie Cozart Burton, coaching him in between shoots.
Any signs of a rough start could not be seen during the first two shows, with Burton’s cool demeanor and winning smile lighting up the stage. He seemed at home at the podium, like he was made to be there.
Burton has been open about his desire to host the show since 2013. After a public campaign to have Burton replace the late Alex Trebek as “Jeopardy!” host, including a petition with close to 260,000 signatures, producers finally added him to the guest host roster.
That’s what makes the selection of Richards even more curious, what with his checkered past that includes being accused of harassment and discrimination on multiple occasions.
The Daily Beast brought attention last week to Richards’ tenure working as executive producer for the TV game show, “The Price Is Right,” where models accused him and others of harassment and discrimination.
A lawsuit from model Brandi Cochran said she was fired from “The Price Is Right” because she was pregnant and alleges Richards claimed at the time that “he liked the models to look as if they were going out on a date.” Cochran’s lawsuit alleges that Richards became “annoyed” when he learned she was having twins. She was fired after she gave birth and ultimately won $8.5 million in a decision that was overturned months later, prompting the parties to settle out of court.
Another model sued “The Price Is Right” producers, including Richards, for allegedly discriminating against her because she was pregnant. That case, the Daily Beast reported, was met with doubt by the judge and thrown out because the lawsuit was filed after the statute of limitations had expired.
In yet another sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit, Richards was named before being dropped as a defendant.
It was in that context that the good folks who run “Jeopardy!” decided that Richards would be the best person to take over permanent hosting duties.
Critics suggested that Bialik’s inclusion as a special host who will only handle primetime shows and not the regular daily version was meant to deflect negative attention from Richards’ past.