Survivor premiered its 40th season Wednesday with 20 former champions competing for a doubled prize of $2 million. While many of the show’s famous faces are back in action, one particular winner — Season 1 victor Richard Hatch — is conspicuously missing.
In a promotional interview for the new Winners at War season, Survivor host and executive producer Jeff Probst said, “I didn’t feel comfortable having him out on the show and representing a show that is for families,” possibly alluding to Hatch’s affinity for nudity.
Probst also told Us Weekly that he wasn’t sure Hatch had ever seriously been in the conversation for a spot in the Season 40 cast. “The bigger consideration was ‘Where is the show now?’ and ‘Do these 20 winners represent the show today?'” he said. “In that sense, we didn’t feel that Rich fit into the equation.”
Hatch, not surprisingly, disagrees. “Everybody knows the original winner ought to be on Season 40. I should’ve been on,” he said in a recent YouTube video, before contending that he was asked to participate in the all-winners season and completed the entire casting process. “I was told I was the only one who every single producer said they wanted [on the show]. I was golden,” Hatch alleges.
Hatch, who claims he withdrew from a PhD program to participate, says that two days before he was set to fly out to the location, he and Survivor: Australian Outback winner Tina Wesson received phone calls saying “things have been paused.”
Hatch speculates that last fall’s Survivor: Island of the Idols sexual harassment controversy likely doomed his chances to appear return to the game. “During the filming of Season 39, when they recognized things were going to be touchy with respect to sexual harassment, etc., they wondered what it would be like for me, who is a bold figure on the show, to participate in Season 40 and for those conversations to potentially be continued,” said Hatch. “I think they made a horrendous mistake in deciding to change their plan and to remove me from the cast. There’s no sexual harassment in my past.”
Hatch’s Borneo season, which aired in the summer of 2000, was watched by more than 50 million people and became a cultural phenomenon worldwide. Hatch paved the way for reality TV villains and helped lay the foundation for alliance-building and strategy not only for Survivor, but for all subsequent competition series. He also received attention for being openly gay. He played again in Survivor: All-Stars where he appeared to rub against fellow Borneo contestant Sue Hawk while nude during a challenge. Hawk quit the game, but later appeared on The Early Show with Hatch where she said the network helped deal with the situation and that she and Hatch had “come to terms with it and agreed to move forward and past it.”
In a recent tweet, Hatch slammed the “salacious editing” of All-Stars by CBS, adding that the network was “trying to scapegoat me to avoid their own responsibility for the travesty that was last season’s mishandled scenario.”
Hatch is no stranger to controversy. In 2006, he was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison for failing to pay taxes on his winning check and other income. He served three years in 2009 and an additional nine months in 2011 for not amending his 2000 and 2001 tax returns, according to Forbes.
Survivor fans: Would you have liked to see Hatch compete in Winners at War? Sound off in the comments!