'Jeopardy!': Mike Richards Apologizes to Staff But Refuses to Step Down as Producer After Offensive Comments

Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards reportedly apologized to the show's staff during a virtual meeting on Monday morning. Richards was named the next permanent host of the venerated game show on Aug. 11, but he was forced to step down on Aug. 20 after The Ringer reported on Richards' offensive comments on a podcast from his The Price is Right days. Although Richards will not host, he will remain as executive producer for the time being.

The Monday meeting was also attended by Sony's top television executive, Ravi Ahuja, the Chairman of Sony Global Television Studios, sources told Deadline. At the start, Richards apologized for his offensive comments about his female podcast co-hosts, as well as remarks about Jews and Haitians. The comments were made during The Randumb Show, a podcast he hosted in 2013 and 2014. Episodes of the podcast were easily available online but were pulled down after The Ringer's report.

During the meeting, multiple staffers said they thought Richards would resign as executive producer as well, while the show begins its search for a permanent host again. Sony announced plans to put together teams to "work on increasing inclusivity," with Ahuja noting the studio is taking the problem seriously. He spoke about facing racist comments while growing up as a Sikh in Mississippi in the 1970s, sources told Deadline.

The goal of the meeting was to "boost the morale" that had taken a dip because of Richards' controversies. It also came after the first search for a permanent host, which many criticized after it ended with Sony hiring the show's executive producer instead of Ken Jennings or any of the other popular celebrity guest hosts. The first five episodes of the fall season will be hosted by Richards, but actress Mayim Bialik will step in to host for at least three weeks. Bialik, who has her own controversies, was previously hired on Aug. 20 to host special primetime Jeopardy! events.

Richards also sent a memo to staffers earlier this month after lawsuits filed by Price Is Right models during his tenure resurfaced. "I want you all to know that the way in which my comments and actions have been characterized in these complaints does not reflect the reality of who I am or how we worked together on The Price is Right," he wrote. "I know firsthand how special it is to be a parent. It is the most important thing in the world to me. I would not say anything to disrespect anyone's pregnancy and have always supported my colleagues on their parenting journeys."

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Although the 2021-2022 Jeopardy! season will start with the second round of celebrity guests, a frontrunner has reportedly emerged. Sources told journalist Matt Belloni that the hosting gig is Jennings' "job to lose." Jennings was hired as a consulting producer last year, before Alex Trebek's death. He is also the most well-known Jeopardy! champion and won the first Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time tournament. Jennings had his own controversy late last year when he apologized for insensitive jokes he wrote on Twitter years ago.