In a letter to the show's team Friday obtained by USA TODAY, Richards said he was "stepping down as host effective immediately." He also noted that "as a result, we will be canceling production today."
The letter said Sony Pictures Television is resuming its search for a permanent syndicated host and will bring back guest hosts in the meantime. Richards will appear as host for the pre-recorded episodes airing the week of Sept. 13. The first new guest host will begin on Sept. 20.
Though he will no longer host, Richards will stay on as executive producer for the long-running game show, Sony said in a statement. He has served in the role since May 2019.
"We support Mike’s decision to step down as host," Sony's statement read, also noting the company was "surprised" to learn of Richard's podcast and the offensive language he used in the past.
"Mike has been with us for the last two years and has led the 'Jeopardy!' team through the most challenging time the show has ever experienced. It is our hope that as EP he will continue to do so with professionalism and respect," the statement said.
What Mike Richards said in the podcast, according to The Ringer
On Thursday, Richards, 46, came under fire after past offensive comments were resurfaced by a report from The Ringer, published Wednesday. It included several quotes from a since-deleted episode of Richards' podcast, "The Randumb Show," which he hosted in 2013 and 2014 as a way to promote a behind-the-scenes look at CBS game show "The Price is Right," for which he was a co-executive producer.
In the podcast, Richards repeatedly used offensive language to describe and denigrate women's bodies and he also made an offensive comment about Jewish people, according to The Ringer's review of the 41 episodes available online until Tuesday.
Richards confirmed in a statement that he took the episodes down and apologized for his words. He said that 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."
Richards had also issued a statement to staff on Aug. 9 regarding resurfaced discrimination lawsuits against him by "The Price is Right" models during his work on the show.
In the producer's letter to staff Friday, he apologized again for "the unwanted negative attention that has come to 'Jeopardy!' over the last few weeks." He said it became clear that "moving forward as host would be too much of a distraction for our fans and not the right move for the show."
The search for a permanent host continues, Levar Burton wants in
On Aug. 13, "Jeopardy!" announced Richards would take over as host for the nightly syndicated game show, and "The Big Bang Theory" star Mayim Bialik would take on primetime specials and tournaments on ABC.
"Jeopardy!" has spent the past seven months rotating 16 guest hosts at the podium once manned by late host Alex Trebek. Some, including LeVar Burton and former champ Ken Jennings, were contenders for the permanent slot, while others, such as "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts, were paying tribute to Trebek's legacy.
Burton has been especially keen to taking on the role. On Friday, as news broke that Richards was stepping down, Burton tweeted: "Happy Friday, y’all!"
Happy Friday, y’all!
— LeVar Burton (@levarburton) August 20, 2021
The former "Reading Rainbow" host lobbied Richards for a guest-hosting spot and took the reins for the week of Aug. 13. USA TODAY's TV critic Kelly Lawler praised his hosting skills as "lively, professional and jolly," once he shook off the jitters.
An online petition for Burton to become the host garnered more than 250,000 signatures since November.
Mike Richards' full letter to staff Friday addresses the controversy
Here is Richards' full statement he sent to his "Jeopardy" colleagues:
It pains me that these past incidents and comments have cast such a shadow on Jeopardy! as we look to start a new chapter.
As I mentioned last week, I was deeply honored to be asked to host the syndicated show and was thrilled by the opportunity to expand my role. However, over the last several days it has become clear that moving forward as host would be too much of a distraction for our fans and not the right move for the show. As such, I will be stepping down as host effective immediately. As a result, we will be canceling production today.
SPT will now resume the search for a permanent syndicated host. In the meantime, we will be bringing back guest hosts to continue production for the new season, details of which will be announced next week.
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. I know I have a lot of work to do to regain your trust and confidence.
Contributing: Hannah Yasharoff, Elise Brisco, Erin Jensen, Kelly Lawler
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mike Richards quits at 'Jeopardy!' host; show halts production