New ‘Jeopardy!’ host Mike Richards quits amid backlash over past remarks

'Jeopardy!' executive producer Mike Richards is shown in this publicity photo. Sony Pictures Television

Who is the host of Jeopardy!?

That’s the question fans are asking once more, after executive producer and newly minted host Mike Richards stepped down amid fierce criticism on Friday.

Richards announced that he was resigning as host in a memo to staff on Friday, the New York Times reports. He said the controversy around his selection has made it clear that “moving forward as host would be too much of a distraction for our fans and not the right move for the show.”

Richards will reportedly remain with Jeopardy! as the executive producer.

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Sony Pictures Television crowned Richards as Alex Trebek’s successor on Aug. 11 after he served as one of several guest hosts on the popular quiz show last season. Sony said at the time that it had put a “tremendous amount of work and deliberation” into the choice, and called Richards a “great talent.”

Richards, who also runs the show, said he had no say in his own selection.

Richards stepped down from the job nine days later, after facing sharp criticism for disparaging comments about women and Jews on his 2013-14 podcast. He has also been criticized for a pair of discrimination lawsuits filed by two former models during his previous tenure as executive producer on The Price is Right. He has denied any wrongdoing in those cases.

He apologized for his past comments on the podcast, called the Randumb Show, in a statement earlier this week.

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“It’s more than clear that my attempts to be funny and provocative were not acceptable,” he said in a statement.

“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,” he wrote in his memo to staff. “I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your trust and confidence.”

“We support Mike’s decision to step down as host,” Sony said in a statement on Friday. “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.”

Click to play video: 'Alex Trebek, host of ‘Jeopardy!’ dies after battle with pancreatic cancer'
Alex Trebek, host of ‘Jeopardy!’ dies after battle with pancreatic cancer

Actor Mayim Bialik was named as host of the various Jeopardy! spinoffs at the same time that Richards was given the top job last week.

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Fans quickly began speculating about Richards’ replacement on Twitter Friday, with some calling for Bialik to take over the role. Others pushed for Sony to choose LeVar Burton, the former Reading Rainbow host and Star Trek: The Next Generation star who was part of last year’s rotating cast of hosts.

Burton backers flooded his Twitter account with messages of support on Friday, with hundreds responding to his simple tweet: “Happy Friday, y’all!”

His tweet appeared to go out before the Richards news broke.

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Others who tried out for the job include Ken Jennings, Anderson Cooper, Aaron Rodgers and Katie Couric.

Sony says it will resume its search for a permanent host.

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