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'Jeopardy!' producer Mike Richards breaks his silence on 2021 firing: ‘People got joy in saying, I got you’

"I hosted one day,” Richards recalls in his first interview since his 2021 firing debacle. He blames a “rush to judgment.”

Mike Richards had a brief but memorable run as Jeopardy! host.
Mike Richards had a brief but memorable run as Jeopardy! host. He talks about his firing in a new interview. (Sony Pictures Television/Instagram)

Mike Richards’s rise as Alex Trebek’s Jeopardy! successor was a fiasco. More than two years later, he’s breaking his silence.

Richards, a longtime game show producer, took the reins as Jeopardy! executive producer in 2020. Later that year, Trebek died from pancreatic cancer. Amid an extensive search for the TV icon’s replacement as host, Richards nabbed the job in August 2021. There was backlash over the show boss becoming host.

Then, before he even started, there was controversy when past offensive comments he made were resurfaced. He publicly apologized and moved forward as host, but lasted just one day before stepping down from the role. He’s now recounting the saga in an interview with People.

'Angry' reaction to his hiring

Having on-camera experience (Beauty & the Geek, Million Dollar Pyramid), Richards said he threw his hat in the ring for the gig.

After he tested well, "No one was more surprised than me," when he was hired as host of the syndicated show with Mayim Bialik hosting primetime specials and spin-offs.

Richards said he immediately asked what the media plan was for the announcement, “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 wasn’t wrong.

"Everyone was so angry because it looked like I had gone into a room and picked myself. And that's not what happens in television, but I understood that that's what the outward appearances were."

Yahoo Entertainment has reached out to Sony Pictures Television, which produces Jeopardy!, as well as current Jeopardy! host Ken Jennings for comment and will update this story if we hear back.

'Hosted one day' before getting fired

Following news of his hiring, The Ringer surfaced past comments Richards made while hosting his podcast, The Randumb Show, from 2013 to 2014. The Anti-Defamation League called for an investigation into the way he spoke about Jewish people and Asians. He apologized for “insensitivity” and deleted the podcast. Also surfaced were workplace discrimination lawsuits filed by The Price Is Right models from when Richards served as co-executive producer of that show in the 2010s. He was not personally named in the lawsuits and denied allegations of workplace abuses.

"It was insinuated that I had been personally sued for sexual harassment. I never had, but that didn't matter,” he told People, adding, "I hosted one day” of Jeopardy! before being fired. He briefly was kept on as EP, but was axed from that show, as well as Wheel of Fortune, within two weeks.

Richards claimed that because this played out during COVID, with the country divided over everything from politics to vaccines, he became the target of ire. The fallout was painful and frightening, with hate directed not just at him. “It was quite a firestorm that engulfed my family,” he said.

“Everyone was like, 'Oh he's just a horrible person,'" he said of the narrative. "It was the price you pay for getting thrust into the zeitgeist in a very inopportune moment." He said, “There was a this rush to judgment” with “a lot of people [getting] joy in saying, 'I got you.'"

Richards was 'blown away' by guest host Aaron Rodgers

He talked about all the A-listers who auditioned for the job before he nabbed it. He said the controversial NFL quarterback “was definitely the most prepared," Richards says of Rodgers. "I was blown away by that, the intensity in which he prepped.”

He was also nice behind the scenes. However, “I worried about his other job that he does on a pretty high level. I was like, 'How are you going to work this out with football scheduling?' He said, 'You'll figure it out!'"

Richards also mentioned Katie Couric, calling it “a missed opportunity” for the show not to completely “reboot” with the journalist in the hosting spot.

As for Jennings becoming the permanent host, Richards gave him a thumbs up, saying: "I always thought Ken was the guy." (He didn’t comment on Bialik’s departure.)

Richards also said he continues to pitch new game shows, but isn’t pushing for a hosting role on any of them. He’s also mulling writing a book.