Mike Richards said on Friday he will no longer host the iconic TV quiz show "Jeopardy!" amid backlash about offensive comments he made in the past.
Earlier this month Richards, an executive producer on the show, was appointed to replace legendary host Alex Trebek, who died in 2020 after more than three decades on the series.
"It pains me that these past incidents and comments have cast such a shadow on Jeopardy! as we look to start a new chapter," Richards said in an internal note to staff obtained by Reuters.
Richards said he would be stepping down "effective immediately" and that production of the show on Friday will be canceled. Sony Pictures Television, producer of the show, will resume the search for a permanent host while bringing back guest hosts to continue production of the new season, the statement from Richards said.
"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," a spokesperson for Sony Pictures Television said in a statement. "We have spoken with him about our concerns and our expectations moving forward."
Richards joined Sony Pictures Television in 2019 and has served as executive producer of "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune." Prior to that, he produced another game show, "The Price is Right."
Actor Mayim Bialik was selected alongside Richards to host prime-time specials and "Jeopardy!" spinoffs including a college championship tournament that will air on ABC next year, according to a statement from Sony Pictures Television.
Earlier this week, disparaging and sexist comments made by Richards when he was the host of a podcast called "The Randumb Show" resurfaced https://www.theringer.com/tv/2021/8/18/22631299/mike-richards-jeopardy-host-search-process-past-comments in a report in online publication "The Ringer."
"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 wrote in the memo. "I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your trust and confidence."
(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Steve Orlofsky)