Longtime "Jeopardy!" executive producer Mike Richards said Friday he is stepping down as the incoming permanent host for the popular game show following backlash over recently surfaced podcast episodes in which he made derogatory remarks about women.
The Ringer's Claire McNear, who first reported on the 2013 to 2014 podcast episodes in which Richards reportedly made the sexist comments, shared a message Richards sent to the show's team Friday in which he said that "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," he added.
BREAKING: Mike Richards has stepped down as the host of Jeopardy! Official statement via Sony: pic.twitter.com/eJSwyBOXwN— Claire McNear (@clairemcnear) August 20, 2021
Richards, who also faced pushback over previous allegations of pregnancy discrimination that resulted in two lawsuits, added that it "pains" him that "these past incidents and comments have cast such a shadow on Jeopardy! as we look to start a new chapter."
"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," he added in the statement shared with The Ringer.
Richards said that as a result of his resignation, Friday production of the show would be cancelled, with Sony Pictures TV now resuming its search for a new permanent host.
He also said that in the meantime, Sony will be bringing in guest hosts, as it did following the death of longtime host Alex Trebek in November. Among those who have stood behind the lectern since are LeVar Burton, Katie Couric and Aaron Rogers.
"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. "I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your trust and confidence.”
Sony Pictures TV also released a statement saying it was standing behind Richards' decision to step down, adding that it was "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," the company added. "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.”
On Aug. 11, the 46-year-old was named the new host of the flagship show, with TV actor Mayim Bialik set to host a series of related "Jeopardy!" spinoff prime-time specials.
The Ringer reported this week that in now-deleted episodes of Richards' former podcast, "The Randumb Show," he reportedly asked his female assistant and co-host if she had ever taken “booby pictures," and at another point called her a “booth ho.”
Richards issued an apology Wednesday following the release of the report, saying, "there is no excuse, of course, for the comments I made on this podcast and I am deeply sorry."
“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.
—Updated at 10:53 a.m.