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‘Jeopardy!’s Mike Richards Speaks Out About Firing 2 Years Ago

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Mike Richards was on the top of the game show host world in August 2021, and just as quickly, it all came tumbling down. It’s been almost three years since Richards was fired from his gig as the permanent Jeopardy! host after the death of Alex Trebek, and the former producer is opening up about how it all went down.

Trebek died on Nov. 8, 2020 after a battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The nine-time Emmy winner hosted the show for 40 years, throughout his cancer fight and all the way until his death at 80.

After months of guest co-hosts, including LeVar Burton, Ken Jennings, Aaron Rodgers and Katie Couric, the beloved CBS program announced in August 2021 that Richards, an executive producer for the show, would be the permanent host

However, after hosting just “one day,” Richards stepped down from the podium upon receiving backlash for sexist comments he made in the past and for taking on the hosting gig, given that he was already an executive producer of the show.

“Everyone was so angry because it looked like I had gone into a room and picked myself,” Richards recalls in an interview with People published Wednesday. “And that’s not what happens in television, but I understood that that’s what the outward appearances were.”

The former Beauty & the Geek host told the outlet that “no one was more surprised than me” when he was offered the permanent position. 

“I paused, and said, ‘Oh wow. Thank you. What’s the media plan?’ Because I was very concerned that this was going to be scrutinized as closely as a presidential election. There was widespread belief that whoever got the job first wouldn’t make it,” he adds.

Shortly after his first day on the job, the anti-defamation league called for an investigation into Richards after The Ringer reported on his past controversies. Richards apologized for the insensitive comments after the outlet’s report was published, but the damage was done. He ultimately parted ways with the show.

“It was the price you pay for getting thrust into the zeitgeist in a very inopportune moment,” Richards says of his abrupt fall from Jeopardy! host glory. 

Then, shortly after stepping down, it was announced that Richards would no longer serve as an executive producer on either Jeopardy! or Wheel of Fortune.  

“I’m writing to let you know that Mike will no longer be serving as EP of Wheel and Jeopardy! effective immediately,” Suzanne Prete, EVP of Business and Strategy for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, said in a note to staff at the time. “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.”

Since leaving the show as both host and executive producer, Richards tells People that he’s spent time “reflecting” on the “firestorm that engulfed my family.”

But the former Million Dollar Pyramid host says he’s “come to terms with being canceled.”

“Why I am talking now is that I feel like I can be a force for good as far as having open, honest conversations,” he says. “We can all disagree about a lot of things. We can disagree about politics, we can disagree about who hosts Jeopardy!. We can disagree about liking a final Jeopardy! clue. And we should. But I felt like there was a this rush to judgment, and a lot of people got joy in saying, ‘I got you.'”

And as for Jennings taking over the podium? As Richards put it, “I always thought Ken was the guy.”

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