Chris Hansen is an American television journalist and YouTube personality who is best known for working on the weekly reality legal show 'Dateline NBC', on which he had a popular segment called 'To Catch a Predator' that arranged sting operations to lure potential online sex predators. The series inspired several spin-off shows, some of which were also hosted by him, including the revival segment 'Hansen vs. Predator' on his new syndicated show 'Crime Watch Daily'. After his two-decade-long career with NBC ended, he hosted 'Killer Instinct', a show documenting homicide investigations, on Investigation Discovery. He currently runs a YouTube series called 'Have a Seat with Chris Hansen'. Hailed as one of the best investigative journalists, he has received several awards and honors, both domestic and international, including eight 'Emmys'. His career declined due to various controversies regarding his personal and professional lives, some of which he is still tackling.
Childhood & Early Life
Christopher Edward Hansen was born on September 13, 1959 in Chicago, Illinois, United States, and grew up in West Bloomfield Township and Birmingham, Michigan. He graduated from Brother Rice High School, a suburban Roman Catholic all-boys school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, in 1977.
He was 14 when labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa was kidnapped from the Red Fox, a restaurant near his home, following which he often rode on his bike to the crime scene. Watching how famous reporters covered the investigation done by the FBI and the local police had a profound effect on him, inspiring him to become a journalist.
He chose Michigan State University over University of Michigan and obtained his bachelor's degree in Telecommunication from its College of Communication Arts and Sciences in 1981. While in college, he was lucky enough to work on the campus radio station as a news reporter early on, which furthered his career.
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Career with NBC
Halfway into his senior year at Michigan State University, Chris Hansen got his first job at WILX (Channel 10), an NBC-affiliated television station, where he joined fulltime following his graduation. As a young reporter, he witnessed the riot at the Michigan State prison and was the only reporter to be allowed to interview inmates for a story that was shown on CNN and NBC.
He stayed in the Lansing area for about a year before moving to Tampa, Florida, where he reported for WFLA-TV, another NBC affiliate, for a couple years starting in spring 1982. During his early career, he also worked for local radio stations and newspapers in Michigan, and was a reporter for WXYZ-TV (Channel 7), the ABC station in Detroit.
In 1988, he joined WDIV-TV, the NBC affiliate in Detroit, Michigan, as an investigative reporter and anchor. He began his long career with NBC News in May 1993, as a correspondent for 'Now with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric', a short-lived news magazine on the network.
Starting in 1997, he began working as a correspondent on various segments of 'Dateline', a weekly show on NBC, and suddenly found himself "standing in the middle of" the Oklahoma City bombing scene. He was subsequently given several other investigative journalism assignments covering the Columbine High School massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Unabomber and the TWA Flight 800 disaster.
He led the network's coverage of the 9/11 attacks, exposed arms merchants with links to Osama Bin Laden, and raised questions about the lack of security at airports that forced a revision in federal policies. He also reported on the Jakarta incident, capture of Saddam Hussein, Air France Flight 8969 hijacking, child labor and worker abuse in Indian silk production pipeline, and the counterfeit prescription drug trade in China.
Chris Hansen, who had already used hidden camera setups in some of his episodes, got the idea of combining that with chat room decoys from online watchdog group 'Perverted-Justice' during a phone conversation with a friend. In November 2004, he featured in the first episode of a new 'Dateline' series titled 'To Catch a Predator', which broadcast sting operations luring potential sexual predators who were handed over to law enforcement.
The series became an instant hit and helped revive the 'Dateline' series, even though it created controversy for 'making news', broadcasting criminal behavior on national television, and for compromising journalism for ratings. The series, which reportedly exposed about 300 men who had targeted teenagers online, ran 12 investigations until December 2007 and spawned a number of spin-off shows using a similar format.
Chris Hansen published 'To Catch a Predator: Protecting Your Kids from Online Enemies Already in Your Home' in March 2007, and hosted 'To Catch a Con Man' and 'To Catch an ID Thief' in July 2007. NBC cancelled 'TCAP' following a lawsuit by the sister of Louis Conradt, a suspected pedophile, who had committed suicide as the NBC team, accompanied by the police, tried to enter his home following a sting operation.
He continued to appear on 'Dateline' in the following years, but his screen time reduced significantly as the series shifted focus from breaking news to murder mysteries and true crime. Ironically, Hansen himself became the target of a sting operation by 'National Inquirer' in 2011, which exposed his affair with 30-year-old TV news reporter Kristyn Caddell, leading to his removal from NBC in 2013.
During an interview with 'TIME' magazine in February 2015, Chris Hansen announced that he would return with the original show, 'Killer Instinct with Chris Hansen' on the true-crime cable channel Investigation Discovery. The show, which chronicled homicide cases, began its initial 10-episode run on August 17, 2015 and was renewed for two more seasons.
Also in 2015, he attempted to revive 'TCAP' with a new independent television show, 'Hansen vs. Predator', and raised $89,068 on a $75,000 goal via crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. He was accused of not sending promotional memorabilia to supporters, and was arrested after his check paying for promotional items worth $13,000 bounced twice, but was cleared after paying up a week later.
In August 2016, he was roped in as the new host of the syndicated news program 'Crime Watch Daily' on its second season, which included 'Hansen vs. Predator' as a new segment. He also hosted the third season of the series, following which it was cancelled in June 2018.
Since 2019, he has been hosting his new YouTube series, 'Have a Seat with Chris Hansen', a weekly podcast that featured interviews and talks with special guests. His initial attempt to interview YouTuber Onision resulted in a lawsuit that was later dismissed, following which he investigated Dahvie Vanty, the lead singer of Blood on the Dance Floor.
Personal Life & Legacy
Chris Hansen married Mary Joan Gleich on November 18, 1989, and has two sons with her. Their long marriage, blotted by his affair in 2011, ended after his wife filed for divorce on June 5, 2018 claiming "the marriage has broken down irretrievably".