The following passages are all taken from Claire McNear’s new essay for The Ringer “A Smile With Sharp Teeth”: Mike Richards’s Rise to ‘Jeopardy!’ Host Sparks Questions About His Past, which can be found here: https://www.theringer.com/tv/2021/8/18/22631299/mike-richards-jeopardy-host-search-process-past-comments. This represents a combination of already-known accusations and newly unearthed information about Richards and his troubling history with women, use of slurs, and vaulting ambition.
I’ve included a lot, but there’s even more in the source material. I’d encourage you to click through and read everything Ms. McNear has to say on the subject.
Richards and his behavior towards women working on The Price is Right
One suit was filed in 2010 by Brandi Cochran, who worked as a model on the show. It centered on the discrimination and harassment she said she experienced after becoming pregnant. At the time, The Price Is Right had recently laid off several models; the suit says that after Cochran informed Richards of her pregnancy, he “said to her, ‘Go figure! I fire five girls … what are the odds?’” which Cochran understood “to mean that Richards would have selected her for layoff if he had known that she was going to get pregnant.” After giving birth, she learned that her contract had been terminated.
Cochran’s lawsuit also detailed Richards’s input on what the show’s models should wear. “Richards decided that the models’ skirts should be shorter and said that he liked the models to look as if they were going out on a date,” the suit says. “At his suggestion, models wore bikinis on the show more frequently.”
Richards and his behavior on the podcast The Randumb Show (2013-2014)
In an episode published on September 4, 2014, after the iCloud photo hack, which exposed intimate images of numerous female celebrities, Richards asked his assistant and his cohost—both much younger women—whether they had ever taken nude photos. When his cohost said that she had sometimes taken photos of herself when she thought she looked cute, Richards responded, “Like booby pictures? What are we looking at?” Later, he asked to go through her phone; when she declined to share an image with him, he asked whether it was “of [her] boobies.”
The conversations among Richards, his cohost and former assistant Beth Triffon, and occasionally Jen Bisgrove—the podcast’s producer and Richards’s assistant at the time—are freewheeling, skipping between pop culture news, upcoming TV lineups, and the latest goings-on at Price. Many have a gossipy edge, with Richards displaying a tendency to turn bawdy and sometimes vulgar. In one 2014 episode, Triffon discusses once working as a model at CES; Richards subsequently calls her a “booth ho” and “booth slut.” When the subject comes up again in a later conversation with Let’s Make a Deal announcer Jonathan Mangum, both Mangum and Richards repeatedly call her a “boothstitute.”
There are multiple conversations in which Richards makes remarks about Triffon’s height and appearance. He repeatedly calls her a derogatory term for little people, a word that he also uses to describe the actress Kristin Chenoweth. (Both that word and the R-word, which Richards uses in a January 2014 episode, are considered slurs.) In the podcast’s third episode, Triffon discusses some acting roles she has auditioned for; Richards says she should try out for Taiwanese roles because of her height. In another episode, after Gray makes a nonspecific comment about big noses, Richards jumps in. “Ixnay on the ose-nay,” he says. “She’s not an ew-Jay.”
Hours after The Ringer asked Sony and Richards’s agent about The Randumb Show, the audio of every episode was pulled down and the podcast’s hosting site, mrichtv.podbean.com, was deleted.
Richards and his role in selecting the successor to Alex Trebek
On Saturday, The New York Times reported that Richards alone selected the episodes that were sent to focus groups for review; the show’s two supervising producers, Lisa Broffman and Rocky Schmidt, who are both in their fourth decade working on the show, were excluded from the process. When The Ringer asked about the Times focus group report, neither Sony nor Richards offered comment.
As executive producer, Richards controlled nearly everything about Jeopardy!’s most recent season. Sources say this led to myriad conflicts of interest. “He was the one rehearsing and giving direction to all the guest hosts, who may not have realized they were competing with him for the job,” says a Sony employee familiar with the host search. “He could influence the promotion of those shows and the respective guest hosts. He had personal relationships with the executives involved, who had entrusted the show to him a year before.”
The same Sony source adds: “It’s not hard to see the structural advantages that such a candidate would have. Would he vigorously advocate for the strongest guest hosts, as an EP normally would in that situation?”
[Guest host/former Jeopardy champion Ken] Jennings taped six weeks of episodes before a minor conflict with an upcoming tape day emerged. As The Ringer previously reported, sources say the show’s production staff was able to accommodate the conflict, only for Richards to step in and insist on hosting instead. When the time came to tape the preamble to his first episode, Richards blamed COVID-19 for the change and exaggerated the nature of Jennings’s conflict. “We have some amazing guest hosts coming that I can’t wait for you to see, but with the COVID outbreak here in L.A., folks were understandably a little reticent to shoot,” Richards said. “Ken Jennings did a great job, but he’s unavailable due to obligations with his show The Chase.”