Thursday was widely expected to be the start of a new era for Jeopardy! with its new full-time host running the show for Season 38. Filming was set to begin on Season 38, with new episodes starting on September 13 as Matt Amodio looks to continue his impressive run as champion.
But the controversy over Mike Richards’ selection as host continues to grow, with new details emerging about the selection process as well as his own offensive comments about women and Jews taking center stage this week. An exhaustive report from Claire McNear at The Ringer detailed some now-deleted podcast comments where Richards disparaged women’s looks and made other offensive comments, at one point being described as “a smile with sharp teeth.”
That report is the second distinct news cycle about Richards’ troubled past, putting Sony into an increasingly difficult spot with its most popular syndicated show. The announcement is official, and filming is set to happen this week according to multiple reports. But as Variety reported on Thursday, there’s “grave concern” among people at Sony about whether Richards can continue in his new role.
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.
For what it’s worth, Richards issued his second apology in as many weeks for his latest podcast comments, even as new organizations issue statements condemning his comments and his new job as the face of Jeopardy!
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
“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.”
Despite that apology, there are a number of reports indicating his future on Jeopardy! is now seen to be in doubt. Matthew Belloni of Puck reported on Thursday that we shouldn’t “be surprised” if Richards gets the gate after what’s become a protracted, multi-layered controversy and subsequent backlash about his legal history and statements on the record.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) August 20, 2021
Sony is, of course, staying quiet about things as filming is supposed to start this week. But what was supposed to be a celebrated changing of the guard for the most beloved trivia show of all time has become nothing short of a nightmare, one that seems it could largely have been avoided with better vetting.