Controversy explodes over host search for TV quiz show ‘Jeopardy!’

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Controversy is enveloping the search for a new “Jeopardy!” host.

The search began following longtime host Alex Trebek’s death on Nov. 8.

The show’s executive producer, Mike Richards, was reportedly the front-runner to take over hosting duties until a recent report in Variety brought to light allegations of pregnancy discrimination and harassment that resulted in two lawsuits against Richards.

In 2010, “Price is Right” model Brandi Cochran brought a lawsuit against Richards alleging she was wrongfully terminated after disclosing her pregnancy. The lawsuit, which named FremantleMedia, Richards and others, went to trial, and Cochran was awarded $8 million. However, the decision was appealed and overturned in 2014. A settlement was eventually reached.

In a second lawsuit filed in 2011, Lanisha Cole, also a “Price is Right” model, alleged she was repeatedly harassed on the show and wrongfully terminated. Richards was dismissed from the lawsuit and it was settled outside of court.


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On Monday, Variety released a memo Richards reportedly sent to “Jeopardy!” staff.

The memo reads:

Team Jeopardy!

Recently, Jeopardy!, our host search and the possibility of me hosting has been all over the news. I want to take a moment so that you can hear directly from me. The last year has been the most challenging in the history of the show. I know we are all still dealing with the loss of our hero, Alex, while at the same time continuing to produce amazing shows for our millions of fans through the pandemic. Our success over that time with our guest-host rotation, including the more than $3 million we raised for charities, is a singular achievement and a testament to your talent and dedication. I’ve produced a lot of television over the years, and I could not be more impressed with team Jeopardy!

It is true that I was asked if I would consider hosting the show. I was humbled and deeply honored. No final decisions have been made and discussions with me and other potential hosts are still ongoing. I know I have mentioned this to you all before, but the choice on this is not my decision and never has been. Throughout this search, Sony’s top priority has always been to continue the incredible legacy you and Alex built. As you know, Alex always believed the game itself and the contestants are the most important aspects of the show, and that will continue to be the guiding principle as the decision is finalized.

I want to address the complicated employment issues raised in the press during my time at The Price is Right ten years ago. These were allegations made in employment disputes against the show. I want you all to know that the way in which my comments and actions have been characterized in these complaints does not reflect the reality of who I am or how we worked together on The Price is Right. I know firsthand how special it is to be a parent. It is the most important thing in the world to me. I would not say anything to disrespect anyone’s pregnancy and have always supported my colleagues on their parenting journeys.

I am very proud of my time on The Price Is Right and Let’s Make a Deal. During my tenure, our female cast members welcomed seven beautiful children. We embraced and celebrated each pregnancy and birth both in front of and behind the camera. It was a joy to watch their families grow and highlight their happiness as part of the show.

For us, I realize there is a lot going on right now as we ramp up for the new season. Please do not hesitate to reach out of you have any questions or concerns.

It is truly an honor to get to work with all of you to produce this amazing show, and I look forward to the days ahead as we get back into production.

Mike


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