Mike Richards’ tenure as the new host of Jeopardy! started Thursday amid a call from the Anti-Defamation League for an investigation into his recently resurfaced podcast comments.
The upcoming season of Sony Pictures Television’s syndicated daytime quiz show began filming as planned with the show’s executive producer as its new permanent host. Filming commenced the day after a slew of offensive comments Richards made on a podcast in 2013-14 were unearthed by The Ringer, and the host issued a profuse apology.
Then, late Thursday afternoon, the Anti-Defamation League released the following on Twitter: “New Jeopardy! host Mike Richards’ disparaging remarks about Jews, women & Asians are no laughing matter. Stereotyping is an entry point to hate and his apology lacks acknowledgment of its harm. This reported pattern warrants an investigation.”
Richards comments included calling his female co-host a “booth slut” for modeling at CES and seeming to make a Jewish stereotype joke (after somebody else made a comment about big noses, Richards reportedly said, “Ixnay on the ose-nay. She’s not an ew-Jay”). Sony had no comment about the ADL tweet.
Among the other comments Richards made: Calling his co-host’s friends “really frumpy and overweight” and saying, “They all look terrible. … They look fat and not good,” reportedly using a derogatory word for little people and a derogatory term for the mentally disabled, and twice singling out white male hosts for praise seemingly because they were white and male (“Jeff Probst had a daytime talk show, which I was cheering for because I like, you know, the average white-guy host”). In another moment, Richards reportedly described himself as “horrible at all trivia,” and rather ironically stated, “I never would have gotten on Jeopardy!.”
Richards issued the following statement about his podcast comments: “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. Even with the passage of time, it’s more than clear that my attempts to be funny and provocative were not acceptable, and I have removed the episodes. My responsibilities today as a father, husband, and a public personality who speaks to many people through my role on television means I have substantial and serious obligations as a role model, and I intend to live up to them.”
Sony announced Richards as the successor to the late Alex Trebek last week. In addition, the studio announced that Big Bang Theory alum Mayim Bialik will serve as the host of Jeopardy! primetime and spinoff series.
Richards was a surprise choice after a long list of better-known guest host candidates tried out, and Sony has been criticized for seemingly letting the show’s executive producer help lead the hunt for a host — which turned out to be himself.
Other guest hosts included fan-favorite LeVar Burton, former Jeopardy! champs David Faber, Buzzy Cohen and Ken Jennings, as well as Savannah Guthrie, Sanjay Gupta, Anderson Cooper, Bialik, Aaron Rodgers, Dr. Oz, Katie Couric, George Stephanopoulos, Robin Roberts and Joe Buck.