The team behind popular podcast S-Town is being sued over claims that it exploited the life of its main subject for financial gain. The estate of John B. McLemore has sued host and creator Brian Reed, Serial Productions, This American Life, Chicago Public Media, and others. McLemore lived in Woodstock, Alabama, and he contacted Reed in 2012 about a suspected murder. The pair maintained correspondence until McLemore committed suicide in 2015. S-Town is about McLemore’s life and death, and promotions for the show dubbed it an “unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.”
“None of these ‘mysteries’ are matters of legitimate public concern, nor were these matters that McLemore contacted Reed to investigate or write about,” the suit states. “The podcast itself acknowledges that McLemore did not wish certain information conveyed to Reed be publicly known, particularly with respect to McLemore’s sexual orientation.”
Craig Cargile, acting as the estate’s administrator, said that McLemore never consented to Reed or anyone else using his personal information. The show divulges details about McLemore’s sexual orientation, financial affairs, physical health, and mental health.
“Apparently they did not obtain any sort of written release or assignment from Mr. McLemore before airing this podcast, which I find very surprising especially considering the sensitive nature of some of the subjects covered in it,” said Rich Raleigh, an attorney for the estate’s administrator.