New “Jeopardy!” Host Mike Richards Targeted with Hit Pieces After Black Guest Host Whom Media Fawned Over Didn’t Get Job
Following the death of legendary “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek, the game show cycled through 15 different guest hosts over nearly 150 episodes aired from mid-January to mid-August. The producers were in no rush to fill Trebek’s massive shoes. They wanted to ensure they had a wide selection of candidates, on top of gifting numerous individuals with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and, in some cases, a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream.
One of those cases was LeVar Burton, an actor best known for his roles on “Roots” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and as host of “Reading Rainbow.” Burton has long coveted the “Jeopardy!” gig, so much so that over the years he’s shared multiple petitions calling on producers to make him host. The most recent petition, one that netted nearly 268,000 signatures, claimed he “has inspired and shaped the minds of several generations of trivia-loving nerds” given his previous TV roles.
“I feel like I’ve been preparing my whole life to occupy the Jeopardy host podium,” Burton even tweeted one-and-a-half months before Trebek’s death.
It couldn’t have been more obvious that the mainstream media was attempting to anoint him as Trebek’s successor. They fawned over Burton, saying there was no one more qualified and perfectly suited for the role than him. There’s also little doubt that his race—Burton is black—was an important factor in their decision to peddle him. Just read these articles to get an idea.
Unfortunately for all those petition signers and journalists, however, Burton failed to become the new permanent host. It ended up being Mike Richards, himself an executive producer of the show. By all accounts Richards was a solid guest host. Viewers were largely satisfied with his performance. He looked completely comfortable and confident in front of the camera. And he was not a big-name celebrity or reporter, which jibes with the late Trebek’s refrain that the contestants are the stars of “Jeopardy!”, not the host.
Although surely disappointed in private, Burton tweeted after the Richards announcement that “I have said many times over these past weeks that no matter the outcome, I’ve won. The outpouring of love and support from family, friends, and fans alike has been incredible! If love is the ultimate blessing and I believe that it is, I am truly blessed beyond measure.”
But the mainstream media and certain “Jeopardy!” fans were much less gracious. “LeVar Burton Fans Outraged Over ‘Jeopardy!’ Hosting Snub: ‘They Did Him Dirty,'” reads a Newsweek headline. “Furious that LeVar Burton isn’t the new ‘Jeopardy!’ host? You’re not alone,” says the Los Angeles Times.
Some outlets went even further, reporting on the “discrimination” that some individuals accused Richards of in several-year-old lawsuits that magically resurfaced once he succeeded Trebek. And most recently The Ringer broke the story of Richards’ allegedly “disparaging comments about women, Jewish people, and Haiti” on his podcast “The Randumb Show” from 2013 to 2014, which was subsequently picked up by outlets like The Washington Post. (Richards apologized in a statement released Wednesday.)
Juxtaposing Burton’s coverage with Richards’ coverage, it becomes all too clear that the mainstream media is exasperated over not getting the smart black host they so desperately advocated for. Ratings surely aren’t the only factor in determining a new host, but Richards had the second-highest ratings out of all the guest hosts. On the flip side, Burton curiously yielded the worst ratings, despite the media’s insistence that he was uniquely beloved by “Jeopardy!” fans. What played a role, the media suggested, were the Tokyo Olympics and an already downward trajectory as the number of guest hosts dragged on. But it’s honestly hard not to read that as pure media cope.
Burton’s first episode was also shaky and difficult to watch, and not just because of the rough gameplay. He claims he put too much pressure on himself to be as good as Alex Trebek, which led him to look and sound nervous and unsure. His nerves may have factored in the development of this awkward moment in the middle of the game:
LeVar Burton gave the clue, “Overthrown by the U.S., this Panamanian dictator was convicted in Miami of federal drug and racketeering charges in 1992.”
Matt Amodio buzzed in. However, he was slow to answer. With the timer running out, he finally answered, “What’s…Noriega?” That was the correct answer. However, Amodio was out of time. Unfortunately, LeVar Burton replied, saying that the answer was “wrong,” when he should have said that Matt ran out of time.
That doesn’t seem like a huge mistake, right? After all, Amodio wouldn’t have gotten the money for the answer anyway. Well, that may have caused the next contestant, Kathleen McHugh, to answer incorrectly. She buzzed in and quickly answered, “Who is Samosa?” That cost McHugh $600. Pearce, who went on to set the record for Jeopardy!’s lowest score, gave the correct response.
To his credit, Burton improved as he hosted more episodes, but his initial stumbles may have cost him his shot at permanent host, especially since so many other guest hosts performed well and were highly qualified in their own right.
That includes Mike Richards. The mainstream media can write all the hit pieces and raise all the doubts they want, but he was the best man for the job.
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