Jeopardy! Host Frontrunner Mike Richards Speaks Out on Allegations of Workplace Discrimination
Mike Richards is addressing allegations of discrimination as well as rumors that he is set to become the next Jeopardy! host.
In an internal memo sent to staffers Monday morning, the Jeopardy! executive producer confirmed that he's in discussions to be the next host of the hit quiz show, nearly nine months after the death of longtime host Alex Trebek.
"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," the Jeopardy! executive producer, 46, said in an internal memo to staffers, obtained by CNN.
Richards' comments come a week after a Variety report stated that the Jeopardy! executive producer is production's top contender to step into Trebek's shoes.
He also addressed "complicated employment issues raised in the press during my time at The Price is Right 10 years ago" in the staff letter, which included allegations of workplace discrimination.
Accusations of pregnancy discrimination arose in two complaints filed by former Price Is Right models from Richards' time serving as executive producer of The Price Is Right and Let's Make a Deal. Richards was not personally named in the lawsuits, which were filed against CBS and producer Freemantle Media.
"These were allegations made in employment disputes against the show," Richards wrote in the staff letter. "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."
In 2010, model Shane Stirling sued CBS and Freemantle Media for wrongful termination after she claimed she was fired in 2008 after her maternity leave was over, according to documents obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. The case was dismissed in 2008.
That same year, model Brandi Cochran also filed a discrimination lawsuit against CBS and Freemantle Media alleging that she was mistreated by production for becoming pregnant with twins. Although no claim was made against Richards personally, the lawsuit alleged, among other things, that Richards spoke to her less, didn't congratulate her on the pregnancy and responded, "Twins? Are you serious?" in an annoyed tone when Cochran shared the news.
A jury ruled in Cochran's favor and she was awarded $8.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages in 2012, according to Today. An error with instructions to the jury resulted in the initial sum being reduced to $7.7 million in 2013.
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In 2011, Price is Right model Lanisha Cole accused Richards in a wrongful constructive termination and retaliation lawsuit of treating her 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.
In the staff memo, Richards denied the claims of discrimination and said the models' pregnancies were "embraced and celebrated."
"I know firsthand how special it is to be a parent. It is the most important thing in the world to me," he wrote. "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," the former producer continued. "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."
In his memo, Richards also recognized the complicated search process for a new Jeopardy! host and the contributions of Trebek. "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," Richards said. It's unclear whether Sony's production company holds the final decision or Jeopardy! execs.
Jeopardy! is preparing to resume taping for its 38th season, premiering on Sept. 13.