Sony Pictures Television’s apparent decision to go with Jeopardy! executive producer Mike Richards as the late Alex Trebek‘s permanent replacement has caused a firestorm, following a season of buzzy celebrity guest hosts. After Variety reported Richards was in talks with Sony for the role, the decision was met with widespread disappointment, especially after many dug into Richards’ controversial past at The Price Is Right. Others pointed out that Trebek had suggested CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates as a potential replacement if producers wanted to hire a woman.

During a July 2018 episode of TMZ‘s OBJECTified, Trebek was asked who he would like to see replace him. He first suggested Los Angeles Kings play-by-play announcer Alex Faust, then Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz. If the producers wanted to hire a woman, he suggested Coates. “Incredibly honored & humbled [Jeopardy! host] Alex Trebek 1) knows who I am 2) thinks I’d be a great host of my fave game show ever that I grew up watching w/ my family & still watch w/ my own kids (who saw him say this & now think I’m a genius),” Coates tweeted after learning of Trebek’s wishlist.

Less than a year after his TMZ interview, Trebek announced he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in March 2019. He continued hosting the show up until his death in November 2020. After his diagnosis, he was asked more often who he would like to see replace him, and he almost always joked about Betty White. However, he also said in January 2020 he would have no say in who could replace him.

Wait. Alex Trebek named a Black woman, Laura Coates, to succeed him and they went with a basic white man who also happens to produce the show?

And they gave LeVar Burton like five days in the middle of the Olympics. Why even bother. Just give it to the white guy from jump https://t.co/fptDMCMemC

— Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady) August 6, 2021

Although Trebek thought Coates would make for a great Jeopardy! host, she was not among the celebrities who took turns hosting this season. Four women hosted the show during the season – journalists Katie Couric, Robin Roberts, and Savannah Guthrie, and actress Mayim Bialik. Richards hosted himself from Feb. 22 to March 5.

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This is CNN legal analyst Laura Coates

This is who Alex Trebek himself named to succeed him on “Jeopardy!”

AFAIC this is who should host. pic.twitter.com/Ql2me1E3An

— DJ Particle @ CONvergence (@DJParticle) August 6, 2021

On Thursday, sources told Variety that Richards is in “advanced” negotiations with Sony to take over Jeopardy! permanently. A Sony Pictures Television spokesman told the outlet there were still “ongoing” discussions with other potential candidates and did not specifically comment on Richards’ position. A source said there is “no certainty” and other candidates are still in the mix. However, Richards is now the “front-runner.”

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I remember Alex Trebek recommending Laura Coates, and I couldn’t have agreed more.

— The Yukon Scott (@YukonScott) August 4, 2021

The news was met with widespread disappointment on Twitter, especially from those who hoped LeVar Burton would get to host. Others pointed out Richards’ past at The Price Is Right, where he served as an executive producer before moving to Jeopardy!. During his time at the Drew Carey-hosted game show, Richards was named in harassment lawsuits filed against the show by models.

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Laura Coates? The incredibly beautiful woman on CNN who never had a blemish or a hair out of place?!

Oh man. She’s be SO good. I’d love to watch that.

— Slammin’Ella (@EllaSlammin) August 6, 2021

One model, Lanisha Cole, claimed she was wrongfully terminated from The Price Is Right and frequently humiliated behind the scenes. When she filed her lawsuit in 2011, she named Richards as a defendant, although he was later dismissed from the suit before she reached a settlement in May 2013.

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I don’t typically watch the show but did they even let Laura Coates temp host for a week during this between time? I saw LeVar’s first day and I enjoyed him (but I always enjoy him so no surprises there).

— Annaxor the Bad DM (@LostR2) August 6, 2021

Richards was the second host for Beauty and the Geek. He also hosted the GSN revivals of The Pyramid and Divided. He also worked as an executive producer on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire when Jimmy Kimmel hosted during the 2019-2020 season. He joined Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! as executive producer after Harry Friedman retired.

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“This Jeopardy situation is a mess. Alex said he thought Laura Cotes should get the job. Everybody on social media wanted LeVar Burton. They go with the guy that was inside the house that no one knew. A mess,” one Twitter user wrote.

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