The popular podcast “Sounds Like a Cult” has been plagued by allegations of abusive behavior, artistic differences, and business disputes, resulting in the creator suing his former co-host for half a million bucks.
Writer Amanda Montell, original creator of the podcast, filed a complaint against Isabela Medina-Maté, Monday in Los Angeles federal court.
“The podcast was not intended to be a ‘how to’ on manipulation and abuse,” according to the lawsuit, which alleges Medina-Maté’s behavior “crossed a line” — “an irony not lost on Montell.”
Montell and her attorneys did not respond to a request for comment. Medina-Maté also did not respond to a request for comment.
Montell’s interest in culture has a personal dimension. She told People Her father spent part of his adolescence living with Synanon, a group originally set up to treat addiction known for its “assault therapy” sessions of violence and terror.
She started the podcast in 2020 before her book was released Cultural: The Language of Fanaticismwhich examined the language used by groups such as Heaven’s Gate, the Church of Scientology and NXIVM.
Montell invited Medina-Maté, a “new acquaintance,” to come on board as a co-host, according to the suit.
The duo recorded episodes on the cult-like qualities of multi-level marketing, fraternities and sororities, and megachurches. They developed a series of phrases, including a classification of cult-like groups from the more benign level of “live your life”, to the worrisome level of “watch your back”, all the way to the “f** k out” level.
But, Montell quickly saw problems in the partnership, claiming that even simple tasks were “difficult” for Medina-Maté.
By 2021, Medina-Maté wanted to push the podcast in a more “comedy” direction, the suit says. Montell was skeptical but eventually agreed to partner with Medina-Maté’s All Things Comedy company. The two women agreed to split the net income of the podcast in half, according to the opportunity.
Montell argues that the show’s quality declined and listeners left increasingly negative reviews.
In November 2022, Montell and Medina-Maté announced that they were joining the Just Right Podcast Network, founded by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, hosts of the highly successful true crime podcast “My Favorite Murder”. . But the following month, Direach Ceart announced that the partnership had been canceled without elaborating
After the disaster, “Sounds Like a Cult” hired a podcast editor in January 2023. Montell claims Medina-Maté mistreated the editor, who privately told Montell that Medina-Maté’s behavior “ creating a toxic environment.” When Montell “gently” presented the problems to Medina-Maté, she responded with “hostility,” according to the suit.
The story came to light in May, after an episode titled “The Cult of Survivor,” about the reality TV show, drew negative comments from listeners on the podcast’s Instagram.
Medina-Maté responded defensively, responding to individual comments and in one case calling a poster “an asshole”. according to a post seen by The Daily Beast.
“For anyone concerned about the survivor incident,” she wrote on Instagram, “here are my two answers. safe I’m done with the fuckin negativity today.”
At the time, Montell released a statement on Instagram saying that Medina-Maté’s behavior was the result of a “sudden and very great personal loss”, and that they would both be taking a few weeks off.
Soon after, the suit says, Montell and Medina-Maté agreed to part ways and dissolve their company but have terminated the terms, according to the suit.
Montell claims she owns all the intellectual property related to the podcast, and Medina-Maté is only entitled to her 50 percent copyright on episodes in which she appeared. She is suing Medina-Maté for damages of at least $500,000, claiming that her conduct “effectively destroyed the Sounds Like a Cult podcast and caused her substantial loss of value to the company and its future revenue stream.”
In unusually colorful language for a legal document, Montell used a censored version of the phrase she coined on the podcast against her ex: “Get the [expletive] out.”