Mike Richards, the Jeopardy executive producer believed to be a front runner to succeed the late Alex Trebek as host, has addressed lawsuits filed during his time on The Price Is Right
After news broke last week that Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards had risen to the top of the contenders to replace the show’s beloved host Alex Trebek in the wake of his death at the age of 80, fans of the famed quiz show quickly uncovered some less than flattering lawsuits and complaints reportedly against Richards during his tenure at other game shows.
Prior to joining Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune as executive producer in 2020, Richards worked on a slew of popular shows, including The Price Is Right and Let’s Make a Deal, with Variety reporting Richards was even considered as a replacement host on the former after longtime host Bob Barker retired in June 2007. Though Drew Carey ended up getting that gig, it seems Richards’ tenure at CBS wasn’t without controversy, as the recently resurfaced complaints detail.
Richards was accused of pregnancy discrimination in a complaints filed by a former Price Is Right model, as well as sexual harassment by another model on the show. In 2010, Brandi Cochran filed a lawsuit against the show alleging mistreatment by Richards and other producers during her pregnancy with twins that led her to miscarry one of her babies, while the other was born three months premature with pulmonary issues. Cochran claimed that Richards spoke to her less often after she was pressured to announce her pregnancy, implying that she would have been fired had her pregnancy not been a secret beforehand. He reportedly made insensitive comments about Cochran and other models’ pregnancies, with Cochran ultimately winning $8.5 million in damages in 2012.
In 2011, model Lanisha Cole claimed that Richards inexplicably stopped speaking to her nearly a decade into her run on the show, and would only communicate with her only through “notes, messages, and intermediaries.” She also claimed he showed favoritism to another model he was reportedly in a relationship with. Before Cole’s lawsuit was settled, Richards was dismissed and was not named a part of the final agreement, though the show’s producers were named in several other complaints during his tenure.
Richards addressed the controversies in a memo sent to Jeopardy! employees this morning, as reported by Variety. “These were allegations made in employment disputes against the show,” he wrote. “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. I know firsthand how special it is to be a parent. It is the most important thing in the world to me. 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,” he 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.”
He added that he was “humbled and deeply honored” to be considered, but that no final decisions have been made.
After the allegations resurfaced, Carey showed support for Richards, crediting him with giving the show’s models more exposure and a bigger role in each broadcast. “He took them from just bodies on the stage to actual people that audiences could get to know as part of the TPIR family,” Carey tweeted. “He’s great. And I hope he gets to be the next Jeopardy host, too.”
Evelyn Warfel, a longtime producer on both shows, also came to Richards’ support beneath Carey’s tweet, writing, “He was beyond supportive both during and after my pregnancy, which as a new mom meant the world to me. It’s not easy juggling both and he was always empathetic.”
It’s unclear whether or not the allegations will hinder Richards’ chances of becoming the permanent host, but here’s hoping that Jeopardy! staffers are able to work in an environment that is safe and welcoming and free of harassment and mistreatment.