James Holzhauer is one of the most successful Jeopardy! contestants of all time, and he has weighed in on the firing of Mike Richards, who after quickly stepping down as the host of Jeopardy! has also been dismissed as the executive producer for the show and Wheel of Fortune.
Regarding the controversial comments Richards made on his podcast, The Randumb Show, that partially led to his departure, Holzhauer said they were not “appropriate for polite society.” Holzhauer also said Richards did not deserve the “benefit of the doubt.”
“Do I think Mike Richards’s podcast comments were appropriate for polite society? No. But did he deserve the benefit of the doubt for the job he did running Jeopardy? Also no,” Holzhauer tweeted.
In a subsequent tweet, Holzhauer posted a GIF that included the caption, “Ding dong the witch is dead!” The former Jeopardy! champion had previously criticized Richards’ candidacy for the host of the legendary game show, pointing to Richards’ role as executive producer during the search for a replacement for longtime host Alex Trebek, who died in November 2020.
Richards’ podcast comments from 2013 and 2014 included comments about women’s appearances, Jewish people, and little people. One incident occurred when he asked his female co-host and assistant if they had taken nude photos, if they were “booby pictures,” and if he could go through his co-host’s phone after she refused to show him an image of herself. The podcast’s audio was taken down and he apologized shortly after The Ringer reached out to Richards’ agent and Sony Pictures Television, the production company of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.
Richards was also named in multiple discrimination lawsuits when he served as the executive producer of The Price Is Right. Brandi Cochran, a former model for the show, was awarded nearly $9 million in damages and ultimately settled a lawsuit in which she alleged Richards discriminated against her after she became pregnant, and that Richards insisted on the models wearing shorter skirts and bikinis more frequently. Richards recently emailed the Jeopardy! staff to deny the allegations and attempt to assure them he would be a suitable host.
Suzanne Pete, the executive vice president of business and strategy for Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, said there had been hope that Richards stepping down as host would “have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks,” but she admitted that had not happened.