New Jeopardy! host steps down

NEW YORK CITY (NBC) – The man tapped to succeed the late Alex Trebek as host of Jeopardy! stepped aside amid a firestorm of controversy over derogatory comments.

The show’s executive producer, Mike Richards, had already started taping shows as the new host.

Production is now paused, with Richards notifying Jeopardy! staffers of his decision to step down as host, telling them he’s become too much of a distraction, and to move forward as host would not be the right move for the venerable quiz show.

Richards has apologized for past comments demeaning women, Jewish people, and poor people.

A spokesperson for Sony Pictures Television, which produces Jeopardy!, says Richards will stay on as executive producer.

This letter was provided to NBC News, Richards shared it with the Jeopardy! staff:

Dear Team,

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.

Mike

Statement from Sony Pictures Television:

“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.  We have spoken with him about our concerns and our expectations moving forward.

Mike has been with us for the last two years and has led the Jeopardy! team through the most challenging time the show has ever experienced. It is our hope that as EP he will continue to do so with professionalism and respect.”

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