'S-Town' was one of the biggest podcasts of last year and hails from the same production team that brought the world's number one podcast 'Serial'. While it began with a murder investigation it soon became a completely different story that focused on the unusual life and colourful character of one John B. McLemore.
The podcast proved divisive for listeners as well as residents of the town John lived in (Woodstock, Alabama), for how it depicted the troubled and charismatic man, and now a lawsuit is being brought against S-Town’s creator - This American Life senior producer Brian Reed - for exploiting John.
According to plaintiff Craig Cargile, who is filing the lawsuit on behalf of McLemore’s estate, Reed, Serial Productions, This American Life, Chicago Public Media and others allegedly used "McLemore’s indicia of identity in a commercial manner" and seeks damages.
Cargile says that McLemore never consented, nor would he have, to the podcast revealing or speculating on the "mysteries" of his private 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 lawsuit 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" or "the intimate details of his sexual orientation and experiences, depressed thoughts, suicidal ideations, financial affairs, physical and mental health issues, and his interpersonal relationships with friends, family members, and sexual partners."
Cargile’s attorney Rich Raleigh also says: "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."
The suit also claims that Reed did not contact any mental health authorities or family members when Reed expressed suicidal thoughts in a conversation at one point.
In response, 'S-Town' executive producer Julie Snyder said the lawsuit "lacks merit".
Adding: "S-Town is produced consistent with the highest journalistic standards and we intend to defend against this lawsuit aggressively."