The Hunt with John Walsh returns for its second season Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET on CNN.
The season debut focuses on a criminal Walsh personally selected, a fugitive who murdered his own teenage daughters. Walsh is hoping CNN’s international reach will help capture the man who is believed to be hiding in Egypt. We caught up with Walsh to discuss how Jeff Zucker lured him to CNN, his thoughts on Donald Trump and the biggest creep he wants to bring to justice.
TVNewser: After 25 seasons on Fox, how did you transition to cable news on CNN?
Walsh: Well, 25 years on prime time is more than a lifetime and I had gotten that wonderful Emmy for excellence on TV that they had given to Walter Cronkite and Johnny Carson, so I thought ‘this is probably a good time to hang up the spurs.’
The hard side of it was, I was gone 51 weeks a year for 25 years, so it was very tough on the family. During that time, I had tried to do a cable show The John Walsh Show and Jeff Zucker was the guy who invested in it. Jeff was running NBC and they built me a beautiful studio at 30 Rock. I did it for a year and a half but I hated living in New York. I had to do America’s Most Wanted four days a week and the other three days a week I shot six episodes of The John Walsh Show. I asked Jeff to let me out of my contract; he understood and said, ‘who quits their own talk show?’
I said, ‘I have to. I just can’t do it. AMW is my passion and trying to do both is killing me.’
Then, Jeff takes over CNN. We met and he asked if I’d ever consider coming out of retirement to do something on CNN. I said, ‘look, what’s the minimum? And he said eight [episodes].’
I said, “I’ll do eight. If the eight bomb and I don’t get any ratings, I can ride off and you won’t be embarrassed. I already quit on you once and I don’t want to do it again.”
So I did the eight episodes, and at the time I think we were CNN’s highest-rated original series. I loved doing it, I love working for Jeff Zucker and it was really a different experience. Very different than working on prime time network show. Now this year I’ve agreed to do 16.
TVNewser: Off the top of your head, who is the biggest scumbag that you’ve been unable to capture?
Walsh: There is one guy named Alexis Flores, he’s a Honduran who is on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. He’s been arrested all over the United States, he has been let go many times. He kidnapped and raped a five-year-old girl in Philadelphia and tried to burn her body to burn any evidence. He’s still at large. I’m sure he’s still hurting little girls and he’s a real dirt bag. I hope, before I hang my spurs up for the second time, I catch Alexis Flores.
TVNewser: Can you touch on the remarks Donald Trump made regarding illegal immigrants crossing the border from Mexico being “criminals” and “rapists?”
Walsh: I don’t agree. I do agree on one aspect of it. We’ve got 15 million legal Hispanics in this country that are a huge part of the success of this country. They guestimate we have 15 million other illegal Mexicans and Hispanics in this country that are illegal aliens. I don’t believe we should deport them. I believe they are part of this society. You can’t do it. The whole economy would shut down. I’ve always said, and I said it to the last two presidents, a very small percentage of those illegal aliens are convicted felons. We have the Adam Walsh Sex Offender Registry that President Bush passed. If you’re a convicted sex offender, rapist or child molester in America, you are mandated to register but we don’t mandate that illegal aliens [register]. They should have to submit to the same rules and regulations and be handled the same way that convicted American felons are.
Trump is wrong. He comes up with these crass generalities to stir it up, to get people all fired up with these not well thought out or researched innuendos. But he does make one point, we do have thousands of illegal aliens that are serious criminals and convicted felons who are floating around this country because we haven’t figured out a system how to track them or how to catch them. We have to either incarcerate them or kick them out.
TVNewser: If Trump wins the election and becomes the next president, would you want to work with him on this and help educate him on everything you just said?
Walsh: Well, I know Donald Trump. He’s actually been a supporter of some of the things I’ve done over the years. I think once they ask for him to disclose his financial records he’s going to drop out in two seconds. If he gets elected I’ll be the first guy up there to say, ‘Donald, here’s what we got to do. You want to solve the illegal alien, convicted felon, dangerous guy-problem? We need a system that works. We need to swab their DNA when they’re caught. We need to fingerprint them. We need to take their picture and we need to track them. Just like we do with American felons.’
TVNewser: You’ve been chasing bad guys for over 30 years, how has social media impacted both how to find them and how they prey on victims?
Walsh: It’s a double-edged sword. It really is because social media has been a great boon for me. I just did a Facebook chat for an hour and I’m amazed at the amount of people that were involved. The last few years of America’s Most Wanted, I remember one year we caught 40-plus guys off of the website. So, that is one the side of the good. On the downside of it, the internet is the private hunting ground for these creeps. I’ve caught many guys that use Facebook and social media as a tool to groom kids to meet them.