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Fired "Jeopardy!" Host Says Aaron Rodgers Was "Most Prepared" to Replace Alex Trebek

Former producer Mike Richards says he was "blown away" by the Jets quarterback's "intensity."

When longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek died of pancreatic cancer in Nov. 2020, rumors swirled around who would step up to take over the job. The game show welcomed a series of guest hosts as an audition of sorts, with the full-time gig eventually going to then-executive producer Mike Richards. His stint did not last long, however. Richards was axed after just one day of hosting in 2021 after an investigation prompted by The Ringer's expose on his offensive comments and an lawsuit he faced in one of his former game show jobs. Now, Richards, who was also relieved of his executive producer role, is speaking out about the scandal—and the other hosting candidates who he believes were best suited for the job.

RELATED: Why the Original Wheel of Fortune Host Was Fired After Just One Season.

In an exclusive interview with People, Richards explained that after Trebek's passing, producers decided to test out new hosts to see who would connect most with the devoted fanbase.

"We could find out if they liked a Katie Couric-type, or maybe Anderson Cooper, or Mayim Bialik," Richards said, also telling the outlet that he'd assumed they would immediately tap Ken Jennings for the job.

As for his own opinions, he said that ESPN sportscaster Joe Buck picked up the hosting style "the quickest," while Couric gave the show "a different look."

"I always wondered if that was a missed opportunity, to reboot the show with her, a completely different host," Richards said of the journalist.

However, in terms of standout hosts, he named now-controversial NFL star Aaron Rodgers as "definitely the most prepared."

"I was blown away by that, the intensity in which he prepped, and he was so lovely to everyone on staff," Richards shared, adding that Rodgers was passionate about the job, being a Jeopardy! fan himself. "But ultimately I worried about his other job that he does on a pretty high level. I was like, 'How are you going to work this out with football scheduling?' He said, 'You'll figure it out!'"

RELATED: Jeopardy! Producer Defends "Hard to Watch" On-Air Moment.

Richards' hiring was also criticized by Jeopardy! fans because it seemed to some that the series of guest hosts had been just for show and the plan was always to give someone already in a position of power on the show the coveted job. Richards claimed in his People interview that he was considered because of his previous experience hosting reality TV shows and game shows. He said that after he scored well with a testing group, Jeopardy! bosses offered him the gig.

"No one was more surprised than me," Richards explained. "They told me, 'We'd like you to be the host of the syndicated version of Jeopardy!' I paused, and said, 'Oh wow. Thank you. What's the media plan?' Because I was very concerned that this was going to be scrutinized as closely as a Presidential election. There was widespread belief that whoever got the job first wouldn't make it."

He directly addressed the assumption that he had "gone into a room and picked myself."

"That's not what happens in television, but I understood that that's what the outward appearances were," Richards said.

It wasn't just his executive producer role that had the public questioning his appointment, however. Richards was fired when offensive and misogynistic comments that he had made on his podcast The Randumb Show as well as lawsuits brought against the show by female employees when he was executive producer of The Price Is Right resurfaced.

He apologized for his podcast comments when they circulated in the wake of his hiring, and in his recent interview with People, Richards also noted that he was fully cooperating with Anti-Defamation League investigations.

The former host also noted that some assumed that he had been "personally sued for sexual harassment" by The Price Is Right models, while the suit actually revolved around wrongful termination and discrimination. People notes that Richards' name was eventually dropped from the suit entirely.

RELATED: Jeopardy! Producer Explains "Painful to Watch" Episode Amid Backlash.

Though Richards left Jeopardy! entirely amid the controversy, he did share his thoughts on how Jennings is doing in the main host role.

"I always thought Ken was the guy," he said.

As for what he's been doing since his firing, Richards told People he's prioritizing spending time with his family. He also said he now understands what it's like to be "canceled."

"Why I am talking now is that I feel like I can be a force for good as far as having open, honest conversations," he said. "We can all disagree about a lot of things. We can disagree about politics, we can disagree about who hosts Jeopardy!. We can disagree about liking a final Jeopardy! clue. And we should. But I felt like there was [this] rush to judgment, and a lot of people got joy in saying, 'I got you.'"

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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