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‘Jeopardy!' Producer Mike Richards Steps Down as Incoming Host After Controversial Past Comments

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  • "Jeopardy!" executive producer Mike Richards will no longer serve as the next host of the long-running trivia show after controversial past comments surfaced earlier this week.
  • Planned production of the next season of "Jeopardy!" has been temporarily canceled.
  • Guest hosts will return in order for production on the current season to continue.

"Jeopardy!" executive producer Mike Richards will no longer serve as the next host of the long-running trivia show after controversial comments he made surfaced earlier this week.

The Ringer reported Richards made offensive comments about women, Jewish people and people with mental disabilities on a podcast he hosted from 2013 to 2014.

Planned production of the next season of "Jeopardy!" has been temporarily canceled, and the search for a permanent replacement for the late Alex Trebek will resume. Richards said guest hosts will return in order for production on the current season to continue.

"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 said Friday in a memo to staff members of the show. "I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your trust and confidence."

Sony confirmed that Richards will remain executive producer of the series.

"We support Mike's decision to step down as host," the company said in a statement Friday. "We have spoken with him about our concerns and our expectations moving forward."

Mayim Bialik, who was named alongside Richards last week, will continue in her role as the host of "Jeopardy!" prime-time and spinoff series.

The Ringer earlier this week detailed derogatory statements made by Richards on "The Randumb Show." The podcast, which had 41 episodes, was taken offline Tuesday after he was contacted by The Ringer for comment about the show.

On Thursday, Richards, 46, admitted to "thoughtlessness" and "insensitivity."

This is not the first time the executive producer has come under scrutiny since rumors circulated earlier this month that he could become the new "Jeopardy!" host.

During Richards' tenure as an executive producer of "The Price is Right," a discrimination lawsuit was filed by Brandi Cochran in 2010 against CBS and FremantleMedia. The suit claimed that the model was not invited back to the show after she took time off for her pregnancy. The case was ultimately settled, but Richards faced additional pregnancy discrimination claims beyond Cochran, which were not successful.

Additionally, many called into question Richards' qualifications for the hosting gig, as well as his influence over the process in selecting Trebek's replacement.

"Jeopardy!" cycled through a number of guest hosts since Trebek died in November. The would-be permanent replacements for Trebek included Ken Jennings, an author with the longest winning streak in "Jeopardy!" history; journalist Katie Couric, professional football star Aaron Rodgers, news anchor Anderson Cooper, CNBC financial journalist David Faber and actor LeVar Burton.

The Ringer reported that Richards, as the show's EP, had control over almost every aspect of the most recent season of "Jeopardy!", including giving direction to guest hosts, influencing the promotion of episodes of the show and picking which shows were sent to test groups for evaluation.

Here is the statement provided to CNBC that Richards shared with the "Jeopardy" staff Friday morning:

It pains me 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. However, 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 canceling production today.

SPT 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.

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. 

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