“Jeopardy” executive producer and incoming host Mike Richards has apologized for derogatory comments he made about women on a podcast he hosted while also serving as executive producer of “The Price Is Right” as backlash to his selection grows and Sony Pictures Television’s hopes for a smooth transition fade.
Following reports about the comments, the Anti-Defamation League issued a call for an investigation of his behavior, stating on social media that his “disparaging remarks about Jews, women & Asians are no laughing matter.”
Sony Pictures declined to comment on the ADL’s statement. But multiple sources close to the situation say the discovery of offensive remarks from the podcast has sparked grave concern within the studio about whether Richards’ public image may already be too damaged for him to be the face of the beloved quiz show. There’s little doubt that Sony Pictures is starting to consider alternative scenarios for the host slot even as Richards begins taping new episodes this week.
The steady drumbeat of negative news about Richards has been troubling and ironic given that one of the reasons he landed the job was that he was not an established personality with a profile that might overshadow the game itself.
In response to detailed reporting by The Ringer about comments he made on in 2013 and 2014 on “The Randumb Show” podcast, including referring to his co-host a “booth ho,” Richards said “there is no excuse, of course, for the comments I made on this podcast and I am deeply sorry.” He called it “humbling to confront a terribly embarrassing moment of misjudgment, thoughtlessness and insensitivity from nearly a decade ago.”
Sources say Sony Pictures insiders had raised concern that Richards would make sophomoric and sexist comments in the public forum like a podcast after having been involved in the “The Price Is Right” discrimination litigation just a few years before.
It’s the latest chapter in ongoing backlash to the decision by Sony to name Richards as the successor to late “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek. The Ringer found old episodes of “The Randumb Show,” a podcast he hosted from 2013 to 2014 and taped in his office as executive producer of “The Price Is Right.”
Details of litigation from the past decade during Richards’ time as executive producer of “The Price Is Right” and “Let’s Make a Deal” have recently resurfaced and contributed to the uproar surrounding the surprise decision to name him “Jeopardy” host. Richards was accused of pregnancy discrimination in two complaints filed by former “Price Is Right” models. He was accused of making insensitive statements and taking other questionable actions around models on the show who became pregnant.
The Ringer, which reviewed all 41 episodes of the podcast before they were deleted online, reported that Richards at one point asks his female assistant and his female co-host whether they had ever taken nude photos, or in his words, “booby pictures.” In one episode, he calls his co-host a “booth ho.”
Per The Ringer: “Women’s bodies and clothing are recurring subjects for Richards. On a 2013 episode, he says that women ‘dress like a hooker’ on Halloween; on another, he tells a story about a former Price employee who had taken up baking: ‘We said that we were going to have to saw her out of her room because she was going to be so giant that she wouldn’t be able to fit out the door.'”
In his statement to the Ringer, which Sony also supplied to Variety, Richards said that the podcast “was intended to be a series of irreverent conversations between longtime friends who had a history of joking around.” He said his attempts to be funny and provocative were not acceptable and that he has removed the episodes, pledging to live up to his obligations as a role model.
The podcast clips add another wrinkle to Sony’s “Jeopardy” unveil, given ongoing concerns over Richards’ involvement in potentially tipping the host search to his favor. It also raises questions about Sony’s vetting process for his selection. In calling for an investigation on social media, the ADL stated that the “reported pattern warrants an investigation.”
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. https://t.co/0D8D7441vU
— ADL (@ADL) August 19, 2021
Here is Richards’ statement in full:
“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.”
Updated Aug. 19 following the ADL’s call for an investigation.