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'Jeopardy!' producer Mike Richards says past discrimination suits don't reflect 'who I am'

Richards, who confirmed that he'd been asked whether he would consider replacing Alex Trebek, addressed the two lawsuits in a note to staff members.
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"Jeopardy!" executive producer Mike Richards addressed past discrimination lawsuits from his previous producing job in a statement that confirmed that he was being considered to be the quiz show's new host.

Richards, who joined the show last year as executive producer, was reported to be the first choice to replace the late Alex Trebek after a rotation of guest hosts this year. But two lawsuits from Richards' time on "The Price is Right" resurfaced after Variety broke the news that he was a top pick for the job.

In a note to staff members provided by a "Jeopardy!" spokesperson to NBC News on Monday, Richards described the lawsuits as "employment disputes" against "The Price is Right." One of the lawsuits alleged that Richards treated a model on "The Price is Right" differently after she became pregnant, and the other suit alleged that he refused to speak to another model on the show.

Image: Mike Richards on the set of 'Jeopardy!'
Mike Richards on the set of "Jeopardy!"Carol Kaelson / Jeopardy Productions

"I want you all to know that the way in which my comments and actions have been characterized in these complaints does not reflect the reality of who I am or how we worked together on The Price is Right," Richards wrote.

He added that being a parent was the "most important thing in the world" to him and that he "would not say anything to disrespect anyone's pregnancy."

Richards also confirmed the reports that he had been asked whether he would consider replacing Trebek as host.

"I was humbled and deeply honored. No final decisions have been made and discussions with me and other potential hosts are still ongoing," Richards said. "I know I have mentioned this to you all before, but the choice on this is not my decision and never has been."

One of the suits was filed by Brandi Cochran, a former model for "The Price is Right," who said she was fired after she became pregnant. The suit, filed in March 2010, listed the defendants as the CBS Corp., CBS Television Network, Fremantle Media and "The Price is Right."

Richards, who was a producer for "The Price Is Right," was not listed as a defendant, but he was accused in the suit of having treated Cochran differently after she announced that she was pregnant in late 2008.

It also accused Richards of having told another model that she would get more work because of Cochran's pregnancy. According to the suit, the model later told Cochran that Richards had said to her: "Go figure! I fire five girls. ... What are the odds?"

Cochran, the lawsuit said, took Richards' comment to mean that he would have fired her if he had known she was pregnant.

After her maternity leave ended, Cochran tried to return to "The Price is Right" but was not booked for work, the lawsuit said. She eventually learned that she had been terminated, according to the lawsuit.

The case went to trial, and a jury awarded Cochran more than $8 million. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge later overturned it, and Cochran and the defendants settled out of court, documents show.

According to the Los Angeles Times, model Lanisha Cole accused Richards in the lawsuit of having treated her differently from the other models.

"Specifically, without limitation, Defendant Richards refused to speak with Plaintiff about anything, work-related or not, under any circumstance," according to a copy of the lawsuit posted by the Times.

The suit said Richards would write notes and give them to other models and staff members to pass to Cole. He was later dropped as a defendant, and the suit was settled in 2013, according to The Daily Beast.

NBC News has reached out to CBS Corp., Fremantle Media and "The Price is Right" for comment on the allegations in the lawsuits.