Journalist Claire McNear literally wrote the history of Jeopardy!, releasing Answers in the Form of Questions: A Definitive History and Insider's Guide to Jeopardy! in 2020. Now, she's made history, as her exposé for The Ringer on newly-appointed host Mike Richards, revealing his sexist and racist comments, helped lead to him stepping down. McNear spoke to The New York Times about her love for the show and her work.
When McNear heard the news of Richards being made host, what was her reaction? She dished:
As I had started to write about 'Jeopardy!' more and watch it more seriously, I learned more about the world. I met the fans; I met the people who make the show. And I kept hearing things from people close to the show: that the host-search process might not have been as aboveboard as the way that it was being described publicly, and a number of staff members had fairly grave concerns about him. I wanted to know more about his past and his genesis as a television personality because he had been really open about the fact that, in addition to producing, he wanted to host.
She listened to episodes of "The Randumb Show," a podcast on which Richards made many inflammatory remarks. She quickly realized the nature of the content she was reviewing. McNear mused:
It became extremely clear to me very quickly that those things were kind of dotted throughout the episode: He uses sexist language; he uses ableist language; he uses ugly slurs and stereotypes. There’s a lot of stuff that we did not transcribe in the story that is in there and paints this broader picture of what 'The Price Is Right' was like as a workplace. And he was the co-executive producer at the time — he was the boss, and he was mostly just talking to his employees.
Other than the passing of Alex Trebek and subsequent host search, much hasn't changed at the game show over the years. But public trust in Jeopardy! might have. McNear commented:
The 'Jeopardy!' machinery is mostly intact and unchanged. But I think there is a great amount of sadness and fear among “Jeopardy!” fans and among the 'Jeopardy!' staff that this whole episode with Mike Richards has damaged this universal appeal that it’s had for all these decades, that it was this totally neutral space that was not partisan. It was never flashy; it was never trying to get in the headlines or be the thing that you debated over dinner. And now it very much is, and it’s possible that when they do bring in a permanent host, people will talk about it a bunch at the beginning, and then it will just kind of settle back down to being the same old 'Jeopardy!' But it’s possible that it’s lost that sheen of being unimpeachable.