In a statement put out on Monday, Mike Richards, who is rumored to be the front-runner to replace Alex Trebek as the permanent host of Jeopardy!, addressed past discrimination lawsuits that came up from his time as a producer on The Price is Right.
For context, two lawsuits from more than a decade ago, which were brought up after it was reported by Variety that Richards was the first choice to succeed Trebek as the host of the show, alleged that Richards treated a Price is Right model differently after she became pregnant, and also that he refused to speak to another model while working for the same show.
Richards made his comments in a memo sent to Jeopardy! staff.
“I want to address the complicated employment issues raised in the press during my time at ‘The Price Is Right’ ten years ago,” 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. 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.”
One suit was filed in 2010 by former model Brandi Cochran, who listed the following as defendants: CBS Corp., CBS Television Network, Fremantle Media, and The Price Is Right. Cochran says she was fired after she got pregnant. You can see that Richards isn’t listed as a defendant, but Cochran says that he treated her differently after she announced that she was expecting in late 2008. The suit further contends that when her maternity leave ended she wasn’t booked for work, later learning she was fired. A jury awarded Cochran more than $8 million when the case went to trial, but a judge later overturned that and the parties eventually came to an agreement on an out-of-court settlement.
The L.A. Times writes that a second model, Lanisha Cole, said in a lawsuit that Richards treated her differently than other models. “Specifically, without limitation, Defendant Richards refused to speak with Plaintiff about anything, work-related or not, under any circumstance,” it said. Later on Richards was dropped as a defendant from that suit. It was settled in 2013.
In the same memo that was sent on Monday, Richards also appeared to confirm that the reports he could become the permanent host of the iconic game show are very real, though it’s not yet a sure thing.
“I was humbled and deeply honored. No final decisions have been made and discussions with me and other potential hosts are still ongoing,” said Richards. “I know I have mentioned this to you all before, but the choice on this is not my decision and never has been.”
Richards joined Jeopardy! last year in an executive producer role. He previously hosted Beauty and the Geek and worked on a number of game shows, including The Weakest Link. He also was an executive producer on Let’s Make a Deal, Wheel of Fortune, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and, obviously, The Price is Right. He was considered a candidate to host the latter show until that job was given to Drew Carey.