Freshly minted “Jeopardy!” host Mike Richards apologized Wednesday evening for sexist comments he made years ago on a podcast.
Richards, who hosted “The Randumb Show” podcast from 2013 to 2014, said in statement that the podcast was “intended to be a series of irreverent conversations between longtime friends who had a history of joking around.”
“Even with the passage of time, it’s more than clear that my attempts to be funny and provocative were not acceptable, and I have removed the episodes,” he said in a statement. “My responsibilities today as a father, husband, and a public personality who speaks to many people through my role on television means I have substantial and serious obligations as a role model, and I intend to live up to them.”
Online media outlet The Ringer reviewed all 41 episodes of “The Randumb Show” podcast — which were reportedly laden with sexist comments about women’s bodies and clothing — before the recordings were pulled offline Tuesday. NBC News has not listened to the original recordings.
Richards said it was “humbling to confront a terribly embarrassing moment of misjudgment, thoughtlessness, and insensitivity from nearly a decade ago. Looking back now, there is no excuse, of course, for the comments I made on this podcast and I am deeply sorry.”
The podcast also featured Richards’ former assistant Beth Triffon and occasionally Jen Bisgrove, the podcast’s producer and Richards’ assistant at the time. It was marketed as an inside look at “The Price Is Right” and “Let's Make a Deal,” both of which he was an executive producer.
The Ringer characterized the podcast as “freewheeling, skipping between pop culture news, upcoming TV lineups and the latest goings-on at Price. Many (episodes) have a gossipy edge, with Richards displaying a tendency to turn bawdy and sometimes vulgar.”
In one example from Sept. 4, 2014, following the iCloud photo hack of numerous female celebrities, Richards reportedly asked his assistant and cohost if they’d 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?’” The Ringer reported. “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.’”
In a later episode, according to the outlet, Richards said one-piece bathing suits made women look “frumpy and overweight.”
At other times, he mocked Triffon’s appearance and called her a “derogatory term for little people, a word that he also uses to describe the actress Kristin Chenoweth,” The Ringer reported, adding he also made “disparaging comments about Triffon’s economic status.”
At one point Triffon explained she qualified for $389 per week in unemployment benefits after losing her job.
“The dangerous side about the crack that you just took is that not everyone is like you. But everyone can collect unemployment, which is why we have so many people on unemployment right now. Which is why we have so many people on food stamps. Because what if you got unemployment and food stamps? You’d be like, ‘Good lord, I’m making—.’ You know what I’m saying?” Richards reportedly told her. “Do you feel dirty? Seriously, and I’m not trying to be mean. Do you feel a little dirty?”
Two months later, according to The Ringer, Triffon said in a different show that she’d given a dollar to an unhoused woman and they had the following exchange:
Richards: Oh my god. You’re perpetuating the circle. … If you gave away money that was given to you by the government, that’s the circle of no life.
Triffon: No, Mike, it was just a dollar.
Richards: That’s the sound of America going down the toilet.
Triffon: I thought that she needed it!
Richards: She didn’t even ask you for it.
Triffon: So she could get some coffee or some food!
Richards: Or some crack! Or some meth!
Richards, who was named the new “Jeopardy!” host earlier this month, was previously involved in two discrimination lawsuits.
One was filed by Brandi Cochran, a former model for "The Price is Right," who said she was fired after she became pregnant. The suit, filed in March 2010, listed the defendants as CBS Corporation, CBS Television Network, Fremantle Media and “The Price is Right.”
Richards was not listed as a defendant but was accused in the suit of treating Cochran differently after she announced she was pregnant in late 2008. The case went to trial and a jury awarded Cochran more than $8 million.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge later overturned it and Cochran and the defendants settled outside of court, documents show.
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In 2011, Lanisha Cole, another "Price is Right" model, filed a lawsuit. Richards was among the named defendants. However, he was later dropped as a defendant and the suit was settled in 2013, according to The Daily Beast.
In a recent note to "Jeopardy!" staff, Richards described the lawsuits as "employment disputes" against "The Price is Right."
"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," he wrote.
His comments on the podcast stand in stark contrast to his "Jeopardy!" predecessor, the late Alex Trebek, who spent much of his career participating in charitable projects. One of his final acts was helping fund a new homeless shelter in Los Angeles through the Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission.
"I think that is one of Alex's gifts was that he could be very resolute and know that the truth will not hurt you, and he wanted to empower people to move through whatever challenge they had in life with a sense of inner strength, inner dignity and love," his wife, Jean Trebek told TODAY in May.
"He was deeply grateful to be part of the solution," she added. "We both saw the rise of homelessness. Now we have this beautiful bridge house that's being built right now to help people."
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