Employees claim toxic behavior inside Obsessed Network.
By James Renner
In public, Patrick Hinds is the life of the party. As cohost of the popular podcast, True Crime Obsessed, Hinds has gained a reputation as a gregarious, charming, and funny man and he holds court in the ballrooms of true crime conventions like CrimeCon and Obsessed Fest. There are countless photographs online with his fans, in which his mouth is open, as if in mid-laugh at something they’ve just said. His rise to fame from Broadway raconteur to the nice guy of true crime was inspiring to many. And much of that journey is told in his new book, Failure Is Not Not an Option, which is promoted as the story of a chubby, poor gay son of a lesbian who succeeded in spite of it all.
But last month, whispers of bad behavior circulated on Reddit following the departure of Obsessed Network’s popular podcast, I Think Not (once called Obsessed with Disappeared), which is hosted by Broadway actress Ellyn Marsh and Joey Taranto. Taranto replaced Hinds as cohost on that podcast in 2022. I Think Not is no longer a part of the company and the scuttlebutt is that Hinds was jealous of the success of his long-time friend Ellyn’s podcast and petty in-fighting had led to the split and the last straw had something to do with the unapproved use of a sound clip from the movie The Bling Ring of all things. But that all seemed too ridiculous to believe.
Several people claiming insider knowledge have since posted steamy tidbits on the ObsessedNetwork subreddit. In September, this post appeared: “Someone linked me to this group because I work with the Obsessed Network and can prove it if that were ever needed. I guess people are worried that the claims being posted here by ‘insiders’ could just be rumors but they’re not. Just know that it’s not made up.”
For this article, I spoke with seven current and former employees of Obsessed Network and each of them said that the person Patrick Hinds appears to be in public is an act and behind the scenes he’s threatening and insufferable. The most common response when reached by phone was, “I was waiting for this shoe to drop.”
Most requested to speak on background due to signed NDAs or the fear of repercussions by their boss. Here’s what they say is happening inside Obsessed Network.
In Hinds’ favor, everyone agrees he’s a hard worker. He puts in long hours. He shows up and gets the podcasts done. But everything at Obsessed Network must be done to his specific liking, which is often based on his current mood, they say, or employees will find themselves in his crosshairs.
“He’s very scary,” says one current employee. “He goes from 0 to 60 immediately.” If Hinds is upset about something external, they explain, he’ll take it out on the first person he sees. For instance, the day Ashley Flowers was featured in the New York Times, he called a producer and berated them for letting their host do too much research for a show.
One time, Hinds threatened to fire a podcast host because they were late for a meeting, even though he was late for their meeting the week before. “I have to get off the phone with you or this is going to end with you being off the podcast,” he told them.
A host was once reprimanded for not having a smile on her face during a company meeting. According to office workers, women seem to receive the brunt of his anger. He is allegedly much softer with men.
As far as the split with I Think Not, employees say that things began to fall apart when Joey Taranto stood up for Ellyn Marsh during a company meeting. He objected to the way Hinds treated Marsh, which reportedly involved much “screaming and yelling.” Hinds didn’t like being confronted.
Taranto’s not the only one who took offense to the way Hinds spoke to Marsh. Julia Rhea was an independent contractor who worked for True Crime Obsessed in 2019. “I witnessed the abuse with Ellyn firsthand,” she says. “He threatened her repeatedly. He threatened to fire her several times. It was unfair and abusive treatment.”
Hinds ostracized Marsh in the office, says Rhea. He would scream at her in front of other people. She remembers hearing him say to Marsh, “I wouldn’t care if your child was threatened, I’d never take your side!”
It’s a shame because the friendship between Hinds and Marsh goes back years, back to when Hinds was mostly known for a podcast about Broadway shows. They had their disagreements before and were able to work through it. Every so often, Hinds would get mad at Marsh and things would go quiet for a while before he apologized. Several people witnessed Hinds get on his knees in a room full of people at Obsessed Fest last year, begging Marsh to forgive him again.
After that, emotions balanced on a razor’s edge for a while and eventually ended for good in a bizarre incident that finally severed their friendship – the infamous TikTok debacle.
Earlier this year, Marsh and Taranto used an audio clip from the film, The Bling Ring in a TikTok video that garnered a lot of attention. After the clip was posted, the hosts received an email from Steve Tipton, Hinds’ husband and business partner, telling them that Hinds was planning to use that audio for a TikTok post featuring himself and Gillian Pensavalle, for their podcast, True Crime Obsessed. When they explained to Tipton that deleting a video could impact the app’s algorithm, Steve responded that this was not a request.
But Hinds’ fury is not limited to Marsh by any means. It seems to be the style of management at Obsessed Network. Case in point, Hinds’ treatment of Olivia Gunderson, an office assistant. “Patrick made it clear she would be fired because he just didn’t like her,” says Rhea. “It had nothing to do with her performance or work ethic, he just didn’t like her so he would scream at her. Ellyn really loved Olivia. I think that had a lot to do with it in hindsight. He took it out on her.”
“The turnover here is incredible,” says one employee. “Many don’t last long unless they’re stuck in contracts.”
Obsessed Network produces a wide variety of podcasts centered on crime and the paranormal, shows like Murder in Alliance, hosted by journalist Maggie Freleng, Strange and Unexplained, hosted by Daisy Eagan, and Crimes of the Centuries, with Amber Hunt.
One common complaint from employees is Hinds’ flippant remarks about his own hosts and podcast topics that they believe were at times sexist and racist.
When one host pitched a new show based on a story from South Africa, Hinds’ allegedly responded, “I’m just not interested in that, sorry, I don’t know why. Is it because they’re black?”
On more than one occasion, Hinds is reported to have said “lesbians want to fuck all of our hosts” in front of staff. During the taping of one podcast, Hinds was recorded saying that a fan was “lesbian for Maggie,” suggesting that a straight fan would make an exception for Maggie Freleng if given the opportunity. In reaction to this quip, Obsessed Network executive producer Becca DeGregorio expressed her concerns in a group message on Slack that was seen by employees as well as Hinds and Tipton. DeGregorio said she was cutting the audio from the episode.
Hinds appeared more concerned about how her feedback made him look to others than he did about the concern itself. An employee seated near Hinds and Tipton when the message came through said simply, “They lost their shit.”
Patrick responded to DeGregorio in a terse message: “Your feedback is really appreciated, however I don’t think it was the right thing to put it in the general channel. It would have been more appropriate to bring it to Steve and me as your supervisors and let us discuss with the talent.”
To which Becca replied: “You and Steve are not a safe space for me to bring this feedback to because it also concerns you. And I think it is pretty clear, that the entanglement of drama between yourselves, the hosts and others at the company leaves employees like me confused as to how to communicate feedback without having it weaponized.”
It appears most of the staff of Obsessed Network as well as the hosts eventually became awkwardly entangled with Hinds. Shortly after hiring a young man named Gil Torres, as an administrative and touring associate, they came out of a bar and Hinds was heard saying to him, “Well, you’re hot.”
One thing that would help these situations is an HR department. But at the time of these incidents, Obsessed Network had no HR department where an employee could wage a workplace complaint. Instead, they were sent to Steve. They have reportedly since contracted with a human resources app that employees can contact.
Beyond Human Resources, there’s a lot of concern internally about how the business is set up. The most profitable podcast owned by Hinds, True Crime Obsessed, is its own separate entity and there are questions about how revenue generated by the podcasts under the umbrella of the Obsessed Network may contribute to social media campaigns used to promote TCO. According to current hosts, there has been little transparency regarding the number of downloads and ad revenue earnings. One host whose contract stated that they would earn a percentage of ad revenue never saw a statement and never received any funds directly from the ads. She was told the show was not popular enough for her to earn money from it and her contract was soon changed so that ad revenue was no longer a part of it at all. Growth did not increase her pay.
Workplace diversity is also problematic. At the time a new producer was hired, there was not a single person of color working in the office. When they raised this issue with Hinds, he replied that it wasn’t a real problem because he was a gay man and knew well what it was like to be a member of a minority group.
It’s the petty things, too, that torment the employees of Obsessed Network. Hinds likes the studio to be a certain temperature when recording. The A/C is supposed to be turned on at 10 a.m. when he has a 4 p.m. recording. When Gil forgot to turn on the A/C until noon one day, he was chastised by a very angry Hinds.
One employee saw their Uber ratings tank after booking several trips for Hinds. They learned that Hinds would berate the drivers when they didn’t go the way he wanted them to. On at least one occasion Hinds threatened to call the police on the driver.
There was also the constant flouting of wealth in front of his employees – whenever Hinds wanted to go home, he would say he wanted “to go to the Hit Factory,” the expensive apartment building where he lives with Tipton. On tours, Hinds would stay at luxury hotels while his staff was set up at the local Hilton Inn & Suites.
The tours were a nightmare for staff. Getting Hinds onto a plane was like bringing a child to the airport, they said. He had to be herded to the gate, often sending high-level employees on errands for water and snacks.
In the office, the micromanaging by Hinds and Tipton also became an issue. One staffer was reprimanded for using the abbreviation “ASAP” in an email. Tipton said it set a bad tone. Not long after that, the employee was told to send all future emails through Tipton before sending out. That employee found their job posted on LinkedIn a short time later.
Turnover remains an issue at the company to this day. And on the way out, employees typically sign an NDA that is part of their severance package that prohibits them from saying anything bad about their experience or to even acknowledge its existence. However, just last February, the Nation Labor Relations Board ruled that it is “generally illegal for companies to offer severance agreements that prohibit workers from making potentially disparaging statements about the employer or from disclosing details of the agreement,” according to the New York Times.
One host who did speak on the record was Amber Hunt, host of Crimes of the Centuries. “As a journalist, I’m a big believer that truth is a disinfectant and I am not okay with ever feeling as though I can’t speak freely about a situation,” she says. “That said, I can only speak to my experiences. I have heard unpleasant stories from other people. I have seen some documentation corroborating those stories and I have no reason to believe anyone’s making up a tale – but those stories aren’t mine to share.”
Hunt says she is proud of the work she’s done on her podcast for Obsessed Network and grateful that Hinds and Tipton brought her on. “I will say, though, that when I pitched the show to them, they verbally told me that if our little experiment failed and we couldn’t agree to terms on a second season, I could have the show back. After we began talking about a second season, it became clear that wasn’t actually possible. I was disappointed in that. Basically, I was told that they own the IP and if I wanted the show I created, I’d have to get lawyers involved.” To be fair, she says, she has worked for other companies that wanted to maintain the IP of her shows. The difference here is that verbal commitment that was not honored.
At the moment, Obsessed Network employees are preparing for their annual Obsessed Fest, which will be held in Dallas on October 20-22, featuring Hinds on center stage along with network podcasters like Maggie Freleng, Amber Hunt, Daisy Eagan, as well as independent true crime podcasters like Rebecca Lavoie, Payne Lindsey, and the hosts from Generation Why. Fans on Reddit questioned the location, though, as Texas is one of the most unfriendly states when it comes to LGBTQ rights. The Lone Star state recently passed laws banning gender-affirming care for minors and are considering an adult ban as well.
One guest that won’t be attending Obsessed Fest this year is Alaina Urquhart, the cohost of the very popular crime and paranormal podcast, Morbid. She was scheduled to appear in person at last year’s fest but at the last minute she had to attend to a family emergency. Hinds allegedly contacted her at the hospital to tell her she was “ruining Obsessed Fest” by not being there in person.
Julia Hager, who volunteered in talent services at the fest, was in a waiting room that day and could hear the shouting from the Obsessed Network green room next door when they got the news that Alaina would not be coming.
Hager was a longtime fan of True Crime Obsessed, frequenting the Facebook groups and listening to each new podcast. She lives in Ohio and when the fest came to Columbus that year, she jumped on the chance to meet her heroes. But you know the old saying.
“The Obsessed Network staff was incredibly, incredibly rude to the convention staff and volunteers,” says Hager. She says that behind closed doors, the event was disorganized and nobody knew who was in charge. The biggest challenge was the schedule. It eventually fell to the volunteers to figure out where podcast hosts had to be at certain times and they were made to slip into mixers or waiting rooms to tap the guest on the shoulder and bring them to their next appearance. But Hinds was on his own schedule, apparently.
Hager remembers Hinds flying off the handle a number of times that weekend, shouting things like, “I never agreed to that timeline. Nobody tells me anything.”
Natalie Grillo, an employee of Obsessed Network, was often the one who had to intervene. “Calm down,” she would say. “No, you calm down!” he’d reply. And around and around it went.
When Hager went into the green room to collect Gillian Pensavalle, Hinds asked her, “Who are you, what are you doing?” Even though he had already met her ten times by then. And Pensavalle was cold and uninterested. “I’m not on Obsessed time right now,” she told her. “I’m on my down time.”
“It felt like I was being grilled,” says Hager. “First off, I’m a volunteer. You’re welcome.”
Later, when staff had to ask Hinds about accessibility for disabled patrons, Hinds waved them off. “Why do I have to deal with this?” he asked them. “Why are you asking me these questions?”
“Patrick seems so genuine when you listen to him. He’s loved dearly on those Facebook groups. And now he’s yelling at these people. He’d just go from 0 – 100 and into meltdown mode. It was a shocking lack of professionalism.”
When asked if she was going to attend this year’s festival in Dallas, Hager says simply, “Never again.”
“Patrick is a scary person,” says Rhea. “And he may react negatively to this article. But I’m prepared for that now. What’s important is that I stand up and use my voice for the people who can’t speak for themselves because they still work there or are too afraid to talk. I hope this is a wakeup call. I hope he gets the help he needs and works to repair these relationships.” Hinds and Tipton did not respond to requests for comment
UPDATE: On December 4, Patrick and Steve released an apology video that also provides their version and perception of events discussed in this article. Both Patrick and Steve were given a list of questions and the opportunity to comment/correct the record prior to publication. The list included questions concerning the allegations in this story as well as more serious allegations that have not yet been reported. They chose not to comment.
Regarding the Morbid situation, whether Patrick called, texted, emailed, or spoke to Alaina’s representative, his displeasure was explicit and relayed to her while she was in the hospital with a sick kid. We can argue semantics of how that message was relayed, but neither Alaina nor Patrick have requested a correction to this piece.
To his other points and allegations of factual errors, I stand by the women I spoke to with direct knowledge of the situations.