Reality TV

‘Jeopardy’ Host Frontrunner Mike Richards Brushes Off ‘Price Is Right’ Lawsuits in Staff Memo


Jeopardy! executive producer and hosting frontrunner Mike Richards has responded to a series of old complaints from his tenure on The Price Is Right. In a memo to staff shared with The Daily Beast, Richards brushed aside a series of old lawsuits from his tenure with The Price Is Right in which female employees complained of harassment and discrimination, which allegedly took place during and after their pregnancies.

Late last week, news broke that Richards, one of several guest hosts to take a turn on air as Jeopardy! searches for Alex Trebek’s replacement, was in advanced negotiations for the job. (At the time, a source told The Daily Beast that discussions with potential hosts remain ongoing.) But Richards’ past with The Price Is Right, where multiple models accused producers of discrimination and harassment during his tenure, raised concerns.

In his memo to staff, Richards confirmed he had been asked if he would consider hosting the show and that “no final decisions have been made.”

“I know I have mentioned this to you all before, but the choice on this is not my decision and never has been,” Richards wrote. “… As you know, Alex always believed the game itself and the contestants are the most important aspects of the show, and that will continue to be the guiding principle as the decision is finalized.”

Regarding the Price Is Right lawsuits, Richards wrote, “These were allegations made in employment disputes against the show. 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,” Richards continued. “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.”

Richards said that during his time with The Price Is Right and Let’s Make a Deal, “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.”

In 2010, The Price Is Right model Shane Stirling sued CBS and the show’s production company, Fremantle Media North America, for allegedly cutting her from the show due to her pregnancy. She was unable to gather sufficient evidence to sway the judge. That year, the same law firm (Shegarian & Associates) also represented another model, Brandi Cochran, in her own complaint that the show’s producers discriminated against her after she became pregnant.

As executive producer, Cochran’s suit claims, “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. At his suggestion, models wore bikinis on the show more frequently.”

Cochran and producers settled out of court after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge overturned her initial court victory, in which she’d been awarded $8.5 million. During the trial, Richards denied treating Cochran unfavorably.

A year later, in 2011, another Price Is Right model, Lanisha Cole, sued Richards, fellow producer Adam Sandler (no relation), and Fremantle for sexual harassment and wrongful termination. Her complaint alleged that she quit the show after producers failed to properly investigate or respond to an incident in which Sandler burst into her dressing room without knocking and berated her while she was half naked, clad in only a sheer thong bikini bottom. Richards was dismissed as a defendant before Cole and the show settled in 2013.

When reached last week by The Daily Beast, a representative for Sony Pictures declined to comment on his involvement in the lawsuits.

Richards’ memo can be read in full below.

Team Jeopardy!

Recently, Jeopardy!, our host search and the possibility of me hosting has been all over the news. I want to take a moment so that you can hear directly from me. The last year has been the most challenging in the history of the show. I know we are all still dealing with the loss of our hero, Alex, while at the same time continuing to produce amazing shows for our millions of fans through the pandemic. Our success over that time with our guest-host rotation, including the more than $3 million we raised for charities, is a singular achievement and a testament to your talent and dedication. I’ve produced a lot of television over the years, and I could not be more impressed with team Jeopardy!

It is true that I was asked if I would consider hosting the show. I was humbled and deeply honored. No final decisions have been made and discussions with me and other potential hosts are still ongoing. I know I have mentioned this to you all before, but the choice on this is not my decision and never has been. Throughout this search, Sony’s top priority has always been to continue the incredible legacy you and Alex built. As you know, Alex always believed the game itself and the contestants are the most important aspects of the show, and that will continue to be the guiding principle as the decision is finalized.

I want to address the complicated employment issues raised in the press during my time at The Price is Right ten years ago. These were allegations made in employment disputes against the show. 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. 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.

For us, I realize there is a lot going on right now as we ramp up for the new season. Please do not hesitate to reach out of you have any questions or concerns.

It is truly an honor to get to work with all of you to produce this amazing show, and I look forward to the days ahead as we get back into production.

Mike



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