Mike Richards has apologized to “Jeopardy!” staff in a virtual meeting.
As ET reports, Sony Television exec Ravi Ahuja, reportedly told staffers during a call on Monday that Richards had the studio’s backing to remain as producer of both “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” regardless of the controversy his short-lived hosting tenure created.
Richards has reportedly also agreed to undergo sensitivity training, “and a veteran Sony legal affairs executive has reportedly been tasked with overseeing Richards’ responsibilities behind the scenes.”
The apology comes days after Richards stepped down in his role as “Jeopardy!” host in the wake of the controversy that erupted when sexist and offensive comments he made in a 2014 podcast recently resurfaced. He remains in his role as executive producer.
Richards spoke to the team, including top Sony executives, and said sorry for the comments he previously made, a source tells Deadline.
According to the publication, multiple staff members “expected for him to step down as EP.”
Richards first announced he would no longer be host in a memo he wrote to “Jeopardy!” staff, obtained by ET Canada, saying that his “past incidents and comments have cast such a shadow” on the show.
As a result, he explained, “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. As a result, we will be cancelling production today.”
Richards continued by revealing that Sony Pictures Television, which produces the show, “will now resume the search for a permanent syndicated host. In the meantime, we will be bringing back guest hosts to continue production for the new season, details of which will be announced next week.”
Richards concluded his missive by offering yet another apology: “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. I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your trust and confidence.”
Meanwhile, a Sony Pictures Television spokesperson said in a statement: “We support Mike’s decision to step down as host. We were surprised this week to learn of Mike’s 2013/2014 podcast and the offensive language he used in the past. We have spoken with him about our concerns and our expectations moving forward.
“Mike has been with us for the last two years and has led the Jeopardy! team through the most challenging time the show has ever experienced. It is our hope that as EP he will continue to do so with professionalism and respect.”
Despite the controversy surrounding Richards, The Wrap reports that the episodes Richards taped before stepping down will air as scheduled; according to sources, Richards taped five episodes on Thursday before announcing his exit the following day.
Richards’ bombshell announcement comes just over a week after the announcement that he and former “Big Bang Theory” star Mayim Bialik will be alternating hosting duties on “Jeopardy!”, and mere days later he became embroiled in a scandal due to his 2014 remarks.
Bialik will step in as host for the first three weeks until a replacement for Richards is found.
The Ringer reported that Richards, bantering with a female during his “Randumb Show” podcast, ventured into some controversial areas when he asked if she had any nude photos on her phone that featured her “boobies.”
He also made the controversial observation that one-piece swimsuits made women look “really frumpy and overweight” and comments about Haitians and Jewish people, along with various other sexist remarks. The podcast episodes have been pulled from circulation.
Richards subsequently sent a memo to “Jeopardy!” staffers apologizing for his remarks.
“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,” Richards wrote in the memo, which was posted on Twitter.
“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.”
Mike Richards sent the following statement to the Jeopardy! staff today: pic.twitter.com/hDTmXCFThP
— Claire McNear (@clairemcnear) August 9, 2021