As Jeopardy! reportedly prepares to name Mike Richards its new permanent host in the wake of Alex Trebek’s death, reports of Richards being sued for sexual harassment while working on a different game show are resurfacing. CBS News reports that in 2011, when Richards worked as a producer on The Price Is Right, he and another producer, Adam Sandler, were sued by one of the show’s models, Lanisha Cole, who claimed that she was wrongfully terminated and constantly humiliated.
The suit, which was settled in 2013, was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in September 2011 and named Richards and Sandler (who shares a name with the comedian and actor) as well as the production company, FremantleMedia North America. No terms of the resolution were divulged in 2013 when the case was settled. Cole had alleged wrongful constructive termination, wrongful harassment, failure to prevent/harassment and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Richards was dismissed as a defendant on April 4, 2013.
Cole, who started working as a model on The Price Is Right in 2003, claimed that the harassment started in December 2009 when Richards allegedly began ignoring her and favoring another model he was allegedly in a relationship with. Cole claimed that Richards hindered Cole’s modeling work on the show by creating policies “which never before existed,” according to court papers obtained by the Los Angeles Times. Cole also claimed that Sandler stormed into her dressing room in September 2010 while she was topless and reprimanded her in front of the other models.
According to Cole’s deposition, the dressing room incident stemmed from her inability to respond to a routine on-stage comment made to her by host Drew Carey because she did not have a microphone. Cole said she complained to management but was continually mistreated. She said she left the show three months later in 2010 out of frustration with the production company’s refusal to properly investigate her complaints.
A few Jeopardy! fans have pointed out on Twitter the accusations against Richards. “FYI, Mike Richards was sued for sexual harassment by one of the Price Is Right models, so… yeah, let’s reward THAT self promotion,” one Twitter user wrote. “Hold up @Jeopardy you mean this Mike Richards?” another person wrote with a link to CBS News’ sexual harassment article.
At the time of this writing, Jeopardy! has not made an official statement about the lawsuit. Variety reported Wednesday that Richards, who joined Jeopardy! in 2020 as an executive producer, is in advanced negotiations to host Jeopardy! permanently. He was one of the guest hosts of the program and earned positive reviews from fans. While Richards is said to be the front-runner for the position, the outlet did caution that this deal isn’t set in stone just yet and changes can still be made.
In addition to The Price Is Right and Jeopardy!, Richards worked as a producer on Let’s Make a Deal and, most recently, the celebrity edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire for ABC. He has also worked as a host on Divided and The Pyramid for Sony Pictures’ GSN cabler.