The Category Is “Jeopardy Ethics”! And The Question Is: “Who Is Mike Richards?”

Mike Richards

If you need another bit of evidence about how social media wastes our time—and why would you?—consider the uproar over the search for a replacement for Alex Trebek. The original “Jeopardy!” host, Art Fleming, was popular too, and he hung around for 11 years. That was sufficiently long to be briefly legendary; the “Jeopardy!” announcer, Don Pardo, was familiar enough that Saturday Night Live! used him and his unique voice as a running joke for decades. But when Fleming retired, there was no controversy over his replacement, because, seriously, who cares who reads the questions and answers in a quiz show, unless they have a speech impediment or sexually harass the contestants, like Richard Dawson on “Family Feud”? But in the Age of The Great Stupid, everything is a big deal.

After months of celebrity tryouts, kind of like Presidential primary debates, “Jeopardy!” has finally chosen two replacements for the late Alex Trebek. The actress formerly known as “Blossom” and later as Sheldon’s girlfriend on “Big Bang Theory,” Mayim Bialik, will host the prime time version and its spinoffs. Can’t wait for those spin-offs! Bialik is legitimately smart and knowledgeable, and not just compared to other performers: she has a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA. She also, like most successful TV actors, projects a likable personality. And, of course, she’s a woman. I assumed a black host would be found, but Steve Harvey’s already taken.

The kerfuffle is over Trebek’s replacement for the main, daily syndicated edition, which has been around since 1984. The show’s current executive producer, Mike Richards got the job. Richards was not one of the more popular auditioners, but he had one thing the rest didn’t have: the power to choose who got hired. He thought, and thought, and chose…himself! This suggests that the process was rigged.

Richards had an obvious conflict of interest, and picking himself for the job that was supposedly the object of a fair competition was unethical. Several observers have compared the situation to when Dick Cheney chaired the committee to pick the best VP candidate to run with George W. Bush, and the committee chose Dick Cheney. Sure, Cheney was a better choice than, say, Dan Quayle, Joe Biden or Kamala Harris, but still. To be fair, it was transparent of Cheney to let everyone know the condition of his ethics alarms: DEAD.

But I digress. The conflict of interest isn’t the only problem with Richards. The Hollywood Reporter reports that Brandi Cochran filed a discrimination lawsuit against CBS and FremantleMedia in 2010, alleging that after taking time off for her pregnancy, Cochran wasn’t invited to return to “The Price is Right,” where she had worked as a model. Richards then produced that show. The case was eventually settled. It’s pretty cynical to choose a woman to host “Jeopardy!” and accept the accolades for a historic selection while simultaneously choosing another white guy with feminist controversies in his closet.

But wait! There’s more… The Hollywood Reporter also wrote about the nauseating text of a memo Richards sent to “Jeopardy!” staff after reports of his front-runner status as the new host and the old discrimination lawsuit made the news. In the memo, Richards wrote:

“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.”

Yecchh. “That’s not who I am” is one of the slimiest of all ethics dodges, and signature significance, in my view, for someone who can’t be trusted to, as just one example, avoid flagrant conflicts of interest.

The answer is: “The unethical choice to host ‘Jeopardy!’?”


Pointer: Pennagain

14 thoughts on “The Category Is “Jeopardy Ethics”! And The Question Is: “Who Is Mike Richards?”

  1. Peripheral, but )from Wikipedia):

    “One of Dawson’s trademarks on Family Feud, kissing the female contestants, earned him the nickname “The Kissing Bandit”. Television executives repeatedly tried to get him to stop the kissing. After receiving criticism for the practice, he asked viewers to write in and vote on the matter. The mail response resulted in about 200,000 responses, the wide majority of whom were in favor of the kissing. On the 1985 finale, Dawson explained that he kissed contestants for love and luck, something his mother did with Dawson himself as a child.”

    I think the responders to the survey were idiots, or the survey itself was bogus. Then again, I’m guessing if one of the family members threatened him, that family would just be off the show. I don’t get why anyone would be into kissing non-celebrity strangers. Sounds like the execs weren’t all that serious about stopping him. They could have said in no uncertain terms to knock it off or find a new gig. That didn’t happen. His reason for doing it is bs.

  2. I don’t know if anyone here is familiar with the old blogger “The Last Psychiatrist,” he hasn’t blogged in years, but the drum he tried to beat was that society is infected by a kind of narcissism that’s characterized by the idea that one has to build and project an “identity,” which ends up being distinct from one’s actions. This doesn’t have to be grandiose the way we usually think of narcissists, a familiar example might be the “writer” who never seems to write but talks constantly about their ideas. They’ve adopted the identity of “a writer,” but that’s all it is to them, an identity.

    From reading that blog, I came to realize that “these actions do not reflect who I am” is a giant red flag for narcissism. It is an ethics dodge, but it isn’t just that, it’s saying “This is just what I do, it’s not the identity I picked for myself. Please turn your attention back to my identity.” Watch for it even when the actions it tries to excuse aren’t actually unethical (for example, celebrities who go off script and then have to grovel to the woke); that’s a person who believes that their facade is the “real me.”

      • While helpful, it’s still a mischaracterization of his statement. I agree we’ve seen this dodge a lot, but it’s usually employed in the unethical way of pairing “it’s not who I am” with “Yes I did those things, but…”

        That’s not really the case here, is it?

        “…the way in which my comments and actions have been characterized in these complaints does not reflect the reality of who I am…”

        He’s clearly saying in this statement that his words and actions have been mischaracterized and don’t reflect the reality of the situation…thus don’t reflect “who he is.”

        • You’re right, Tim. I still think “who he is” shouldn’t be part of the discussion. The question is what he did, and whether or not it was right and legal. Was she out of shape? He was on firm ground. Was she punished for taking leave? That’s wrong. What he did is the same if he’s Gandhi or Goebbels. He’s saying, “I’m a good guy.” Well, if he did the right thing he might be, and if not maybe not. It’s still a deflection.

          • I agree with Tim, but I also think the “not who I am” verbiage is becoming cliché and has the tendency to immediately raise red flags.

          • Honestly, I don’t think this is deflection. I think he’s directly addressing supposition as a mischaracterization. basically the tl;dr version of “Fake news!”.

            “This is who he is.”
            “Actually, that’s not who I am, but nice try.”

            Is defending oneself simply a deflection? If so, maybe that’s okay?

            • Isn’t “I’m a good guy” just the reverse of an ad hominem attack? Saying you’re a good guy isn’t a defense. “That’s not what I did” or “I didn’t do that, and I can prove it” are defenses. “I can prove it: I’m not like that” isn’t. No?

              • Aren’t mischaracterizations a form of “ad-hominem attack”? Is refuting and calling out an “ad-hominem attack” a deflection?

                If someone said “Hey, anyone that uses or writes the banned n-word is a racist.”, that person is characterizing all use of the word.

                Do you deny writing the word or are you saying that characterization is incorrect? Is it your job to characterize your actions or can you just leave it at “that’s a bad characterization of my actions and people who follow the history of this issue know differently.”

  3. I found the last few months annoying. We watch “Jeopardy!” every weeknight. Obviously, finding a replacement for Trebek in the middle of the season was going to be complicated and the pandemic made it, like everything else, more difficult.

    As news articles and Facebook debated who we liked best, I kept wanting to argue back, “Who says this is a vote? Who says these are the candidates from which to choose?” I just assumed they got who they could to fill in until they could put someone experienced with public speaking in front of the camera. My favorite was David Faber. He had the look, the voice and the ability to keep the game going.

    Richards and his heartfelt tears upon announcing the death of Trebek caused many fans to call for him to be the replacement, but I couldn’t see him doing double duty. His attempts each night to repeat Trebek’s call for a kinder, gentler nation seemed trite, especially since he kept having to say them quickly or else be played off-stage by the “Jeopardy!” orchestra.

    Call me cynical, but, by now, the #MeToo stuff just doesn’t phase me. I have no idea what Richards is really like, but I don’t trust those allegations anymore.

    Not sure if I’ll keep watching “Jeopardy!”. We’ll see if Richards is able to handle the show where it counts which was where Alex Trebek excelled and why he was so beloved.

  4. “Jeopardy”, like most T.V. shows, is ratings. Once the powers-that-be note falling ratings, Richards will be history.

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