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First ‘Survivor’ winner Richard Hatch on taxes, Trump, and reality TV

On the Rhode Island Report podcast, the Newport resident who won the first season of the reality show criticizes host Jeff Probst, weighs in on this season’s cast, and addresses the tax evasion case that sent him to federal prison

Richard Hatch, the Newport resident who won the first season of "Survivor," talks to Boston Globe reporter Edward Fitzpatrick on the Rhode Island Report podcast.Carlos Muñoz

PROVIDENCE — Richard Hatch, the Newport resident who won the first season of “Survivor,” appeared on the Rhode Island Report podcast to talk about reality TV, former president Donald J. Trump, and the federal tax evasion case that sent him to prison.

Hatch, 62, discussed his Rhode Island roots, saying, “I grew up here in Newport. My dad was a lobsterman, so I grew up in the water spearfishing, which was really helpful on the show.”

He said that after he won the title of “Sole Survivor” in Borneo in 2000, the editors crafted a storyline that emphasized scenes in which he was naked, but they didn’t show other cast members without clothes. “They were all naked, in case you didn’t know,” he said. “But that’s my branding now. I’m the naked guy, and I don’t mind because, you know, it’s fine.”


Hatch said that since he won that initial season, “Survivor” has changed a lot “unfortunately.”

“Jeff Probst is executive producer now, and there’s a lot of what I think is ego involved,” he said of the “Survivor” host. “He’s inserted himself and continues to insert himself more and more and more, where all kinds of commentary that seemed to be efforts to be socially appropriate or to kind of take a stand with ‘This is who we are and what we are trying to say in Survivor.’ It doesn’t work.”

For example, he noted that in a move toward more inclusive language, Probst no longer greets players with the catchphrase “Come on in, guys.”

Richard Hatch, the Newport resident who won the first season of "Survivor," on the Rhode Island Report podcast.Carlos Muñoz

Still, Hatch said he continues to watch every episode of “Survivor,” and while he declined to predict the winner of the current season, he said he’s “fascinated” by the progress of cast member Carolyn Wiger.

“She’s so free spirited,” he said. “That typically does not do well, but she’s got this ability to keep much of what she’s actually thinking or planning — or how she’s strategically prepared to move — quiet. And as long as she can do that, she can do well.”


Hatch also appeared on “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2011, and ended up getting “fired” by Trump, who was then hosting that show. At that time, he said, he “would have bet everything I’d owned and everything you owned” that it was not possible for Trump to become president.

“This guy is a charlatan,” Hatch said of Trump. “He’s done nothing other than fail. And what would you have done if you’d been gifted, inherited $400-plus million? How many times did he lose it? I can’t even count. But I know what I would have done — and, yes, paid taxes on it — but I certainly would have made, I think, a really, really positive impact.”

In 2006, a federal judge sentenced Hatch to 51 months in prison for evading income taxes after a jury found him guilty of tax evasion and filing a false return for not reporting to the IRS about $1,428,000 that he earned from “Survivor” and other sources.

During the podcast, Hatch maintained his innocence. “There was literally not one iota of calculation or attempt to evade anything,” he said. “The truth is, of the tax thing, those taxes were owed to Malaysia by CBS and Mark Burnett — by law, by US law, by Malaysian law — before we even left the island. And so I reached out to the IRS — me and my accountants. This is how it all started. Nobody was doing anything. But I reached out to them and said, ’Hey, what do we do with this? How much was paid? To whom? By whom?’ So we can figure out the difference.”


Hatch said he is now appearing in a four-part series titled “The Game Show Show,” and he’s planning to launch a podcast of his own called “Reality Matters.”

Richard Hatch, the Rhode Island resident who won the first season of "Survivor," is planning a podcast titled "Reality Matters."Handout

To get the latest episode each week, follow Rhode Island Report podcast on Apple Podcasts and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at Follow him @FitzProv.