On Friday, August 20th, Mike Richards, the new host of Jeopardy! announced he’d be stepping down from the position just nine days after he took it. Richards, an executive producer on the show, had been embroiled in scandal after taking the mantle from Alex Trebek (RIP).
Ringer reporter Claire McNear detailed numerous allegations against Richards and painted a picture of a man unsuited for the job Per McNear, Richards was “exclusionary and dismissive of longtime show employees.” Allegations came forward about how he treated women on set while he worked at The Price is Right, how he fired a female employee after she got pregnant and gave birth, and how, “at his suggestion, models wore bikinis on the show more frequently.”
McNear’s reporting also detailed 41 episodes of his podcast, The Randumb Show, which ran from 2013 to 2014, and found that “Richards repeatedly used offensive language and disparage women’s bodies.”
He asked, “his assistant and his cohost — both much younger women — whether they had ever taken nude photos.” Per McNear’s Twitter, he said that women who wear one-piece swimsuits look “frumpy and overweight,” and once said of Miley Cyrus, “Objectively she is not attractive and she does not have a great body. She’s just skinny and she has a boy body, which is why she wants to get fake boobs.”
The episodes were taken down this week and Richards issued an apology for the episodes. But on Friday, he did still officially step down from the position. And quite frankly, it’s good that he did.
Jeopardy! is not supposed to be a show mired in scandal. Of course, Jeopardy! is a workplace, and all workplaces have issues, ranging from the mundane to the serious, so painting the show as a beautiful utopia of knowledge and competition and trivia is likely, not accurate. It’s also a show that families look to for smarty-pants role models. Replacing Trebek with someone who is not a role model was a terrible move.
And given the fact that the show’s producers had decided to try out a number of guest hosts from LeVar Burton to Aaron Rodgers to Dr. Oz, the decision to internally hire Richards — who had no public connection to Jeopardy!, was confusing. It’s weird that they didn’t consider hiring someone like Ken Jennings, too, whose fame and prominence are thanks to his historic run on the show, or LeVar Burton, whose experience in public access television and public goodwill made him seem like a shoo-in.
It was just confusing all the way down.
Add that to the fact that he clearly isn’t aligned with the public-facing values of the show (Alex Trebek seems nearly squeaky clean in comparison) and that there were many, deserving candidates who were taken out of the running for an internal hire, and it’s clear that Richards stepping down is the right move.
It demeans the brand of the show to have this happen, not just because it’s managed to go so long without scandal before, but also because in a modernizing, ever-changing world, Jeopardy! has remained almost the same. It’s always been a simple show with a simple structure and a group of regular, smart people, competing against one another and themselves. There’s no need to add drama to that. It’s already perfect.