Jeopardy!'s Mike Richards Quits Hosting Gig After His Past Offensive Comments Resurface
Richards, 46, sent a memo to staffers announcing the news of his departure, which comes after clips resurfaced featuring him making disparaging comments about women and other marginalized groups.
"It pains me that these past incidents and comments have cast such a shadow on Jeopardy! as we look to start a new chapter," he wrote in the memo, which was obtained by PEOPLE.
"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," he continued. "As such, I will be stepping down as host effective immediately. As a result, we will be canceling production today."
For more on Mike Richards quitting his Jeopardy! hosting gig and other top stories, listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.
Richards, who is also an executive producer on Jeopardy!, added that Sony Pictures Television will resume the search for a new permanent host for the syndicated show. "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," he said.
"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," Richards concluded.
A rep for Sony did not respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
Sony Pictures Television first announced that Richards had been selected as Jeopardy!'s permanent host on Aug. 11, about nine months after longtime host Alex Trebek's death. Mayim Bialik, 45, was additionally tapped to host Jeopardy! primetime and spinoff series, including the newly-announced Jeopardy! National College Championship.
The current controversy surrounding Richards stemmed from a podcast he hosted from 2013 to 2014 called The Randumb Show, which at the time was touted as a behind-the-scenes look at his then-workplace The Price Is Right, according to an article published by The Ringer on Aug. 18.
Throughout the podcast's 41-episode run, from which the outlet recorded and published a series of audio clips, Richards made multiple inappropriate comments about women, including calling his podcast co-host and former assistant Beth Triffon a "booth ho" and a "booth slut" when discussing her work as a model at the CES trade show.
Another instance captured by The Ringer heard Richards calling Triffon's female friends "really frumpy and overweight" after seeing a photo of the women in their one-piece swimsuits at a lake. Despite Triffon saying that "no one's overweight" in the picture, Richards told his co-host, "They look fat and not good in the picture. It's bad."
In addition to making offensive comments about women, The Ringer reported that Richards used a derogatory term for little people and a slur for people with mental disabilities and made belittling remarks about people's economic status during conversations on the podcast.
He also made a comment on the podcast tying Jewish people to big noses, prompting the Anti-Defamation League to call for an investigation into his behavior.
"New 'Jeopardy!' host Mike Richards' disparaging remarks about Jews, women & Asians are no laughing matter," the organization wrote in a Twitter statement Thursday, one day before news broke of Richards' departure.
"Stereotyping is an entry point to hate and his apology lacks acknowledgment of its harm," the statement said. "This reported pattern warrants an investigation."
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
After the article was published, Richards issued an apology. "It is humbling to confront a terribly embarrassing moment of misjudgment, thoughtlessness, and insensitivity from nearly a decade ago," he said in a statement provided to PEOPLE. "Looking back now, there is no excuse, of course, for the comments I made on this podcast and I am deeply sorry."
"The podcast was intended to be a series of irreverent conversations between longtime friends who had a history of joking around. Even with the passage of time, it's more than clear that my attempts to be funny and provocative were not acceptable, and I have removed the episodes," the statement continued. "My responsibilities today as a father, husband, and a public personality who speaks to many people through my role on television means I have substantial and serious obligations as a role model, and I intend to live up to them."
The apology was the second Richards issued within the month of August. Prior to the announcement of his Jeopardy! gig, he denied allegations of workplace discrimination during his time at The Price Is Right, including a claim that he allegedly told model Brandi Cochran when she revealed she was pregnant, "Go figure, I fire five models. What are the odds one of the ones that I keep gets pregnant?"
Cochran sued the producers at FremantleMedia North America and CBS in 2012, winning the suit to the tune of more than $7 million in damages. Richards was not personally named in the lawsuit. The decision was overturned the next year, Entertainment Weekly reported, and settled out of court.
Another suit — a wrongful constructive termination and retaliation lawsuit from Price is Right model Lanisha Cole in 2011 — accused Richards of treating Cole differently than the other models, causing her "great uncertainty" about her future on the show, according to the Los Angeles Times. He was later dismissed as a defendant and the case was settled out of court in 2013, the outlet reported.
"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," Richards told Jeopardy! staffers in a memo obtained by PEOPLE earlier this month.
Jeopardy!'s 38th season premieres on Sept. 13.