Alarming comments Mike Richards made that have resurfaced continue to cast a shadow over "Jeopardy!"

On an old podcast, Richards resorted to tasteless jokes and once spoke in pig Latin to mock Jewish people

Published August 19, 2021 6:31PM (EDT)

Mike Richards on "Jeopardy!" (Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)
Mike Richards on "Jeopardy!" (Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)

Nearly a week after "Jeopardy!" announced executive producer Mike Richards and actress Mayim Bialik would be the show's new hosts, alarming comments made by Richards have been unearthed. On the podcast, "The Randumb Show," which Richards hosted from 2013 to 2014, the Ringer reports he regularly made a number of sexist and concerning comments about women's bodies, along with anti-Semitic, racist and classist comments.

[UPDATE: As of Friday, Aug. 31, Mike Richards has been fired from "Jeopardy!" in the capacity of executive producer, 11 days after he stepped down as host.]

In 2014, amid an iCloud hack that exposed several female celebrities' nude photos, Richards pressed his female co-host, Beth Triffon, about whether she'd taken nude photos of herself. The report shares some audio of the dialogues in question but not in all instances.

"Answer it right now to your fans," Richards tells Triffon. "Have you?" Triffon responds that she hasn't, but Richards insists, "Yes you have." When Triffon says that she's taken "cute pictures of myself," Richards asks, "Like boobie pictures?" 

The Ringer also reports that in one episode, when a guest brought up big noses, Richards chimed in speaking in pig Latin: "Ix-nay on the ose-nay," and, "She's not an ew-Jay." 

The report also alleges that Richards made disparaging comments about Triffon's sexuality when she brought up her work as a model at CES, an annual technology trade show. He also allegedly said Triffon's friends looked "fat" for wearing one-piece swimsuits in a photo of them at the lake, and joked about giving her roommate a "smack."

In another episode, Richards reportedly responds to Triffon's complaints about problems in her apartment by saying, "Does Beth live, like, in Haiti? Doesn't it sound like that? Like, the urine smell, the woman in the muumuu, the stray cats."

Richards also reportedly praised "the average white-guy host," saying, "I cheer for him to succeed because I feel like through his success, I could have some success hosting," he added. Of "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest, Richards said, "He's actually made the world a safer place for what I like to call the 'skinny White host.' "

While "Jeopardy!" hasn't commented on Ringer's report, Richards has shared a statement apologizing for the podcast to Entertainment Weekly. The statement reads, "It is humbling to confront a terribly embarrassing moment of misjudgment, thoughtlessness, and insensitivity from nearly a decade ago. Looking back now, there is no excuse, of course, for the comments I made on this podcast and I am deeply sorry."

According to Richards, he intended for "The Randumb Show" to be "a series of irreverent conversations between longtime friends," but "my attempts to be funny and provocative were not acceptable." He's since removed the podcast from the internet. 

Late Thursday, the Anti-Defamation League tweeted out a call for an investigation: "New Jeopardy! host Mike Richards' disparaging remarks about Jews, women & Asians are no laughing matter. Stereotyping is an entry point to hate and his apology lacks acknowledgment of its harm. This reported pattern warrants an investigation."

The added scandal of Richards allegedly making these disparaging and insensitive comments on his podcast follows weeks of controversy over previous lawsuits against Richards while he hosted "The Price is Right." One of the lawsuits alleges Richards retaliated against a pregnant worker on the show, while the other comes from a model on the show who says she was wrongfully terminated and routinely berated and humiliated by Richards and other producers.

The revelations from Richards' old podcast raise a number of questions, including, among others, what an adult man was doing speaking pig Latin. But "Jeopardy!" has stood by Richards through the past controversies, and seems likely to support him through this. Still, all of the scrutiny and controversy attached to Richards certainly leaves a dark cloud hanging over the beloved trivia show, as it begins filming new episodes this week — and it's a dark cloud that certainly wasn't hanging over the show when the late, great Alex Trebek was host.

By Kylie Cheung

Kylie Cheung is a staff writer at Salon covering culture. She is also the author of "A Woman's Place," a collection of feminist essays. You can follow her work on Twitter @kylietcheung.

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