Mike Richards has been fired as executive producer of Jeopardy! just a week after he stepped down as host of the quiz show following a backlash over past offensive comments.
The 46-year-old American television producer was expected to stay on as executive producer despite controversy surrounding distasteful remarks he made including mocking women, Jews, and Haiti.
Richards previously referred to his former assistant, Beth Triffon, as a ‘booth slut,’ criticized women’s weight and praised ‘the average white-guy host’ on a 2014 podcast.
Deadline reports that Sony Pictures Television informed staff in a memo on Tuesday, revealing Richards also been let go from Wheel Of Fortune as executive producer.
Executive Vice President of business and strategy Suzanne Prete sent the following message in an email: ‘I’m writing to let you know that Mike will no longer be serving as EP of Wheel and Jeopardy! effective immediately.’
‘We had hoped that when Mike stepped down from the host position at Jeopardy! it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks. That clearly has not happened.’
Out: Mike Richards FIRED as executive producer of Jeopardy! and Wheel Of Fortune amid fan backlash
Embassy Row’s Michael Davies has agreed to step in on an interim basis.
The axing comes after a huge backlash from fans of the show, many of whom had wanted favourite LeVar Burton to take the reins.
Richards was also forced to address recently resurfaced sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits from his time at The Price Is Right.
Prete in her email added: ‘I know this has been a challenging time for the entire team, and I want to thank you all for your cooperation and professionalism over these last few weeks.’
The studio exec added that she will ‘work together with all of you in the weeks ahead to ensure that production remains on schedule and we do not miss a beat as we head into the new season.’
Controversy: Richards was also forced to address recently resurfaced sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits from his time at The Price Is Right
Last week, the longtime TV pro announced he was stepping down as the new host of Jeopardy! effective immediately over a series of crude comments that he made on a podcast in 2014.
Richards released a statement through Sony Pictures Entertainment, which produces the long-running game show, saying that carrying on with his hosting duties would be ‘too much of a distraction’ for the fans of Jeopardy! amid the controversy swirling around his past remarks.
‘It pains me that these incidents and comments have cast such a shadow on Jeopardy! as we look to start a new chapter,’ Richards wrote in his letter addressed to staff.
He added: ‘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’ abrupt exit as host – and now as executive producer as well – comes nearly seven years after he was recorded on the podcast ‘The Randumb Show’ referring to his former assistant, Beth Triffon, as a ‘booth slut,’ criticizing women’s weight and praising ‘the average white-guy host.’
While officials at Sony said that Richards would stay on as the executive producer of Jeopardy! that decision has now been retracted.
Richards was initially set to take over as the main host of the popular show from the late Alex Trebek who died last November from cancer.
The Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik was announced to host special spin-off versions.
The announcement for both Richards and Bialik was released on Aug 11.
But fans took to social media to express their disappointment and anger over the choices, particularly at Richards, who many felt had an unfair advantage as he was already executive producer of the show.
Meanwhile, Richards was forced to send his own memo to staff, in early August following past sexual harassment lawsuits.
Richards claimed that the way his actions were described in the old lawsuits ‘does not reflect the reality of who I am’ in the memo, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
Tough times: Richards is pictured last week with his wife Stephanie and a friend
‘I want to address the complicated employment issues raised in the press during my time at The Price is Right ten years ago,’ he said. ‘These were allegations made in employment disputes against the show.’
Shortly after news broke that Richards was positioned to succeed Trebek, his involvement in two harassment lawsuits -brought by two former models at The Price is Right while he was a producer there – resurfaced.
‘I want you all to know that the way in which my comments and actions have been characterized in these complaints does not reflect the reality of who I am or how we worked together on The Price is Right,’ Richards said.
One of the models, Brandi Cochran, sued FremantleMedia North America and The Price is Right Productions in 2010 over claims producers sidelined and harassed her after she became pregnant.
Surprise: The Big Bang Theory star Mayim posted her own statement about being picked as the host for special ‘new versions’ of the show
Richards was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, but Cochran alleged in it that he stopped talking to her as much after she became pregnant and implied that she would have been fired had the pregnancy not been a secret.
‘I know firsthand how special it is to be a parent,’ Richards continued in his statement apparent reference to Brandi’s complaints.
‘It is the most important thing in the world to me,’ Mike added. ‘I would not say anything to disrespect anyone’s pregnancy and have always supported my colleagues on their parenting journeys.’
Mike went on to say that during his time on The Price Is Right and Let’s Make a Deal the shows ’embraced’ the seven babies born to female cast members.
Fan favourite: Guest host LeVar Burton was also in the running to be named as the new host, and angry fans hit out recently when he wasn’t picked
Cochran was initially awarded more than $8 million in compensatory and punitive damages, which was later overturned, as she settled with the company.
Lanishia Cole, meanwhile, sued Richards and another producer as well as FremantleMedia North America in 2011, for wrongful termination and sexual harassment.
She alleged that the producers berated her in front of her peers, and claimed Richards began ignoring her and favoring another model he was in a relationship with in 2009.
The lawsuit was settled in 2013, and Richards, who denied any wrongdoing, was dismissed as a defendant before the settlement was reached.
For the last year, Richards has served as Jeopardy’s executive producer and was among the show’s rotating cast of guest hosts following the death of Alex Trebek.
The beloved host died in November at the age of 80 after a long-fought battle with pancreatic cancer.