'To Catch a Predator' Host Chris Hansen Says He Heard About Alleged Nickelodeon Sex Abuse for Years

Investigative reporter Chris Hansen, best known for being the host of NBC’s To Catch a Predator, featuring him confronting would-be child sex predators, said “a lot of us in the investigative reporting world had been hearing about Nickelodeon and Dan Schneider for years.”

Hansen told Newsweek that alleged abuse taking place at the network had been on his radar since 2006, recalling a time that year when he busted a Nickelodeon employee on an episode of To Catch a Predator, which featured him confronting adult men arriving at houses to have sex with someone they thought was a minor.

“This particular sting was back in 2006 I believe, when the videotape editor Justin Smith from Nickelodeon showed up, and you know, a lot of us in the investigative reporting world had been hearing about Nickelodeon and Dan Schneider for years now,” Hansen told Newsweek.

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In the 2006 episode of To Catch a Predator, Smith, a 27-year-old freelance postproduction editor for Nickelodeon at the time, chatted with a decoy named Carly, who he thought was a 13-year-old girl, sending her nude photos of himself and telling her that he could come to her home to perform oral sex.

Smith was then confronted by Hansen after entering the house, at which point he ran outside and was arrested in the driveway. He ended up pleading no contest to two counts: an attempted lewd act upon a child and attempting to send harmful matter.

Nickelodeon told To Catch a Predator that the network fired Smith as a result.

But Investigation Discovery’s Quiet on Set: The Dark Side Of Kids TV documentary revealed that at least three other convicted child sex predators — Brian Peck, Jason Handy, and Ezell Channel — were working at Nickelodeon in the early 2000s.

Showrunner Dan Schneider, meanwhile, was called out on the docuseries by former Nickelodeon employees for behavior they found questionable, and fostering a toxic workplace environment.

“Now [Schneider] is apologizing,” Hansen told Newsweek. “And I think it’s causing — and should cause — a reexamination of, you know, how adults act around children.”

“You have these situations where you’ve got a vulnerable set of people who are, in some cases, under supervised and are having close relationships with adults. There needs to be rules,” the former To Catch a Predator host continued.

“And you would think that most of this would be common sense, but when there’s no rules there, nobody overseeing this or monitoring it, there’s obviously the potential for inappropriate behavior and abuse,” Hansen added. “If you allow too much ungoverned opportunity, you’re going to see the potential for exploitation. I think that’s what we see in the Nickelodeon situation.”

Hansen, who for 20 years has been investigating adults who try to prey on children, said he and his team would find would-be child sex predators by monitoring chatrooms on AOL, Yahoo, and Myspace — but that things are more complicated nowadays.

“The number of social media platforms upon which adults can approach children has literally exploded,” Hansen said. “With more devices, increased access, and [they’re] more difficult to detect, track, and stop.”

“You have to look in many different areas. You have to be as clever as the predators. The crime is not going away. It’s only become more prevalent,” he added.

While To Catch a Predator ended in 2007, Hansen continued his line of work, launching a similar series in 2022 called, Takedown With Chris Hansen, on TruBlu.

“In my opinion, based upon all my years of doing these stories, [the best way to protect children] is with this relationship between the parent and the child,” Hansen asserted. “So I think by doing these stories and continuing to do them, we continue to reach out and encourage that relationship.”

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and X/Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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