Sony Pictures TV and Richards announced he is stepping as Jeopardy! host -- but will keep his job as the show's executive producer -- one day after he began taping his first episodes as full-time host and two days after a bombshell The Ringer story brought up a slew of fresh new controversies, including offensive comments he made about women, Jews, Asians and the homeless. In a staff memo to his Jeopardy! colleagues, Richards said the backlash created “too much of a distraction for our fans and not the right move for the show.” The article prompted the Anti-Defamation League to call for an investigation into Richards. "In the end, Sony concluded that Richards’ image was too battered for him to take the helm of one of television’s most prestigious and popular brands," reports Variety's Cynthia Littleton. "The irony is that the studio moved in his favor because he was seen as a neutral personality rather than an established name that might overshadow the show and its famously rapid fire, answers-in-the-form-of-a-question format." Sony Pictures TV, which will now resume its search for a permanent host of the syndicated game show, said in a statement: “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.” Sony TV added: “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 executive producer he will continue to do so with professionalism and respect.” In his full memo, Richards said: "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."
TOPICS: Mike Richards, Jeopardy!, Aaron Rodgers, James Holzhauer, Stephen Colbert, Game Shows, Sony TV