Mike Richards has officially stepped behind the lectern as Jeopardy!'s new host. But could his stint end up being short-lived?
Richards, the executive producer of Jeopardy! who was tapped as its new permanent host last week, is facing growing controversy after The Ringer resurfaced offensive comments he made in podcast episodes from 2013 and 2014. He officially began taping the new season on Thursday, but Variety reports that the controversy over the podcast comments has "sparked grave concern" at Sony Pictures about "whether Richards' public image may already be too damaged for him to be the face of the beloved quiz show." The Variety reports adds, "There's little doubt that Sony Pictures is starting to consider alternative scenarios for the host slot."
Meanwhile, former Hollywood Reporter editor Matthew Belloni in his What I'm Hearing... newsletter reports that "internal pressure is building" on Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Tony Vinciquerra over Richards' hiring. According to Belloni, Vinciquerra wants to keep Richards, but Sony is "monitoring the fresh reactions," and "if the backlash overwhelms the show — or, presumably, if fingers start pointing more directly at Vinciquerra himself — don't be surprised if he makes a change." Belloni also reports that the atmosphere on the Jeopardy! set is "beyond awkward," and "people are pissed."
Richards' selection had already been controversial due to past discrimination lawsuits he was involved in and questions over the role he played as producer in the job search that resulted in his own hiring. After The Ringer revealed that Richards "repeatedly used offensive language and disparaged women's bodies" on podcast episodes, he apologized for his "misjudgment, thoughtlessness, and insensitivity." On Thursday, the Anti-Defamation League called for an investigation, saying his "disparaging remarks about Jews, women & Asians are no laughing matter," and his "apology lacks acknowledgment of its harm." As the backlash grows, the new season is scheduled to begin on Sept. 13.