Podcast Review: American Scandal

American Scandal is a podcast about scandals throughout U.S. history. The host is Lindsay Graham, who also hosts American History Tellers, Business Movers, and History Daily. Each of the forty-one seasons focuses on a different scandal. So far, I’ve listened to the seasons about the Attica Prison Riot, fraud at Enron, and the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. What makes American Scandal entertaining is that the scandals are dramatized. Graham includes fictionalized dialogue and narration from the principals’ perspectives based on his research. The theatrical element of this podcast makes it enjoyable.

Season 30 is about the Attica Prison Riot. Graham describes the root causes of the uprising, which include prisoners only being allowed to shower once a week, lack of medical attention and abuse by prison guards. He provides narration for key figures involved at the Attica riot, such as inmate Richard X. Clark and Russell Oswald, who was the New York Commissioner of Corrections at the time. Graham describes the negotiations between the inmates and Oswald, and why they failed. He takes you step-by-step from the start of the riot to its horrific ending. This podcast makes you feel like you are in the prison yard and at the negotiation table.

Season 29 covers the rise and fall of Enron. Graham provides a close look at Enron executives Andy Fastow, Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay as they engaged in fraud. He describes what made Sherron Watkins, an employee at Enron, a whistleblower against the corporation. It’s infuriating to learn about the arrogance of Enron executives when questioned about their unethical behavior. The executives’ bullying intimidated employees from speaking out against the fraud they had witnessed. Graham does an excellent job illustrating the attitudes of those involved in the scandal. 

Season 24 focuses on Bernie Madoff. The podcast begins with a description of the financial hardships of Madoff’s family when Bernie was growing up. Graham describes how this motivated Bernie to be rich from a young age. You learn about Madoff’s success on Wall Street and why he created a Ponzi scheme. His Ponzi scheme was surprisingly not complicated, and it is a wonder that Madoff was not caught sooner. Diana Henriques, author of Wizard of Lies, is interviewed, she describes her encounters with Madoff while he was incarcerated. She describes being conned by Madoff when she asked him to not be interviewed by the press until her book was published, and he did it anyway. Graham does an outstanding job describing the life of Madoff, and it is interesting to hear Henriques’ experiences dealing with him.   

American Scandal is an interesting and entertaining way to learn about scandals throughout U.S. history. Graham’s captivating voice and dramatizations will capture your attention. Other interesting topics covered by this podcast include Watergate, the release of the Pentagon Papers, and the FBI investigation into insider trading by Steven A. Cohen (current owner of the New York Mets).

American Scandal can be listened to on podcast apps such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify and many more. It can also be heard on the Wondery website

 Michael Walsh

Adult Services-Will Library