Jul 19, 2023

'Sounds Like a Cult' Podcast Creator Sues Former Co-Host


Amanda Montell accuses Isabela Medina-Maté of destroying the popular show with bad behavior.


The Daily Beast

Decca Muldowney


Jul. 18, 2023 



Listen to article 4 minutes


The popular “Sounds Like a Cult” podcast has been beset by allegations of abusive behavior, artistic differences, and business disputes, culminating in the creator suing her former co-host for half a million bucks.

Writer Amanda Montell, the original creator of the podcast, filed a complaint against Isabela Medina-Maté, on Monday in Los Angeles federal court.

“The podcast was not meant 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.”

Neither Montell nor her attorneys responded to a request for comment. Medina-Maté also did not respond to a request for comment.

Montell’s interest in cults has a personal aspect. She told People her father spent part of his adolescence living with Synanon, a group initially set-up to treat addiction that became a cult known for its violence and terror-inducing “attack therapy” sessions.

She started the podcast in 2020 prior to the release of her book Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism, which examined the language used by groups like 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 set of catchphrases, including a ranking of cult-like groups from the more benign “live your life” level, to the concerning “watch your back” level, all the way to the “get the f**k out” level.

But, Montell quickly saw problems in the partnership, claiming even simple tasks were “difficult” for Medina-Maté.

By 2021, Medina-Maté was trying to push the podcast in a more “comedy” direction, the suit alleges. Montell was skeptical but eventually agreed to partner with Medina-Maté’s company All Things Comedy. The two women agreed to split the net revenues of the podcast in half, according to the suit.

Montell contends the quality of the show deteriorated and that listeners left increasingly negative reviews.

In November 2022, Montell and Medina-Maté announced they were joining the Exactly 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, Exactly Right announced the partnership was canceled without elaboration

Following the collapse, “Sounds Like a Cult” hired a podcast editor in January 2023. Montell claims Medina-Maté mistreated the editor, who told Montell privately that Medina-Maté’s behavior was “creating a toxic environment.” When Montell “gently” broached the problems to Medina-Maté she reacted with “hostility,” according to the suit.

The situation came to a head in May, after an episode titled “The Cult of Survivor,” about the reality TV show, which garnered negative comments from listeners on the podcast’s Instagram.

Medina-Maté reacted defensively, responding to individual comments and in one case calling a poster an “asshole,” according to posts viewed by The Daily Beast.

“For anyone with concerns about the survivor episode,” she wrote on Instagram, “here are my two responses. goodbye. 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 excruciating personal loss,” and that they would both be taking a couple of weeks off.

Soon after, the suit says, Montell and Medina-Maté agreed to part ways and dissolve their company but are deadlocked on the terms, according to the suit.

Montell claims she owns all the intellectual property associated with 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, arguing that her behavior “effectively destroyed the Sounds Like a Cult podcast and caused a substantial loss of value to the company and its future income stream.”

In unusually colorful language for a legal document, Montell used a censored version of the catchphrase she coined on the podcast against her ex-partner: “Get the [expletive] out.”


Decca Muldowney








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