Richards announced his decision to exit the job in an internal memo to Jeopardy! staff on Friday, written in the wake of mounting controversy involving the EP.
“As I mentioned last week, I was deeply honored to be asked to host the syndicated show and was thrilled by the opportunity to expand my role,” Richards wrote. “However, over the last several days it has become clear that moving forward as host would be too much of a distraction for our fans and not the right move for the show. As such, I will be stepping down as host effective immediately.”
Per Richards’ memo, Jeopardy! will continue to bring in guest hosts as the search for a full-time successor continues. Big Bang Theory vet and June guest host Mayim Bialik was previously named as host of any primetime and spinoff editions of the quiz show. Richards is expected to stay on as an executive producer; cast your vote here in our poll of who should replace him as host. (Five episodes of Jeopardy! were filmed with Richards behind the podium, all of which will still air despite his departure as host.)
“I want to apologize to each of you for the unwanted negative attention that has come to Jeopardy! over the last few weeks and for the confusion and delays this is now causing,” Richards added to his staff. “I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your trust and confidence.”
Richards’ exit comes after offensive jokes that he told on a podcast resurfaced online, for which he apologized earlier this week. He was once also an EP on The Price Is Right and co-hosted a TPIR-themed podcast called The Randumb Show from 2013 to 2014. On that podcast, The Ringer reported this week, Richards made a number of unsavory comments. For example, he said one-piece swimsuits make women look “frumpy and overweight,” he advised his cohost Beth Triffon to try out for Taiwanese roles because she’s short, and during a conversation about big noses, he warned: “Ixnay on the ose-nay… She’s not an ew-Jay.” (Read The Ringer’s report, linked above, for many more details.)
Richards also has been the subject of discrimination allegations and lawsuits stemming from his tenure at The Price Is Right; he issued a statement to Jeopardy! staff earlier this month addressing those allegations.
After The Ringer reached out to Richards’ agent for comment on the aforementioned jokes, the podcast audio was abruptly pulled down and the hosting site deleted. Richards in turn issued a statement, saying, “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.”
He added that “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.”
Richards was named Jeopardy! host after a long search following the death of iconic host Trebek, who passed away from pancreatic cancer last year. The show tried out more than a dozen guest hosts, including Richards, and while his stint was well-received at the time, some fans bristled at the EP getting the job over favorites like Bialik and LeVar Burton.