10 min read

Truth and Lies in Jon Kasbe’s Teal Swan Documentary

Truth and Lies in Jon Kasbe’s Teal Swan Documentary

Director Jon Kasbe spins many false narratives in the new Teal Swan documentary on Hulu. Conspirituality Podcast Host Matthew Remski says the documentary damages cult reporting efforts.


Be Scofield is the author of the new book Hunting Lucifer: One Reporter's Search for Cults and Demons. Her reporting is mentioned in the NYtimes, Rolling Stone, People and more.

August 21, 2022

In the Hulu documentary The Deep End, director Jon Kasbe portrays Teal Swan hiring a private investigator named Molly Monahan to investigate her group. He wants the viewers to believe that Swan, a controversial cult leader, hired Monahan to objectively determine if she was running a cult.

Teal Swan never hired Monahan for such purposes, however. Kasbe, his producer Bits Sola and Monahan painted a false narrative about her role in The Deep End.

On the surface it doesn’t even pass the smell test.

Could you imagine Scientology giving an unbiased, outside investigator inside access to their group to investigate them? Paying them to once and for all determine if they were really a cult? Obviously not.

Teal knows better than that. She knows she is labeled a cult leader in the press. She knows people want to destroy her. Letting anyone inside her group poses a high risk. Letting a private investigator inside that could expose her as a dangerous cult leader could be catastrophic.

So, why would a secretive and insular guru hire someone to “investigate” themselves?

Because Teal Swan knew Molly Monahan could be paid off and conduct a sham “investigation” that would exonerate her. Teal knew Monahan had been paid by another cult leader to do their dirty work.

It’s no accident that Molly Monahan, the private investigator Teal Swan hired, had previously concluded that I, a prominent cult reporter, was a cult leader.

Molly Monahan was hired by cult leader Aaravindha Himadra, whom I exposed around the murder of one of his students. In her “unbiased third-party” report (for which I was never interviewed) Monahan concluded that I was a “malicious maniac,” a “cyberstalker’ and a “cult leader.” Monahan harassed former classmates of mine looking for dirt on me. She printed many false statements like that I had lied about having an agent from United Talent Agency. Molly Monahan never sought comment from me in her highly inflammatory and slanderous report. She never mentioned the widespread international news coverage that my cult reporting had received.

LEFT: Molly Monahan in The Deep End RIGHT: Monahan reading my article exposing Teal Swan

Big surprise…Molly Monahan’s seven month “investigation” completely exonerated Aaravindha Himadra and painted me as a lying, unhinged, narcissistic cult leader and cyberstalker. She regurgitated Aaravindha’s critiques of me and my investigation but gave it the “official” credibility Aaravindha had paid for. She ignored the fact that a highly prominent medical examiner concluded that my findings were true, that Aaravindha’s student had been murdered.

What were the chances that Teal Swan’s team just happened to hire the one private investigator who had been hired by a cult leader before? There are thousands of P.I.’s around the country. Swan chose the one who had been paid by a cult leader to slander me as a cyberstalker and malicious maniac. In theory it was a good choice.

Aaravindha Himadra did not pay Molly Monahan tens of thousands of dollars to do a neutral, unbiased investigation. And neither did Teal Swan.

Molly Monahan’s Betrayal of Teal Swan

What actually happened was that Teal Swan’s team saw how Monahan could be bought off. They wanted the appearance of an “investigation” just like Aaravindha did. But they knew they were hiring her to clear their name.

Things went awry when the documentary crew started filming Molly Monahan. She realized her methods and processes would be scrutinized by the public and she pivoted from why Teal had hired her.

“It’s put me in an uncomfortable position,” Monahan says in the documentary as evidence she finds shows that Swan’s group was a cult. “It feels like a burden.” Why would Monahan be uncomfortable if she was hired to investigate regardless of the outcome? Why would evidence of cultic behavior be a “burden?” It’d only be if Monahan was hired to exonerate her and had to stray from what she was paid for.

After The Deep End came out Teal Swan responded to many aspects of the series in a four-part video series, including about Molly’s role:

“Molly Monahan, the private investigator did not work independently…She worked for me. We hired her so that we could avoid false conclusions that we are a cult….I’m not sure why she would betray me, her own client and play ‘TV personality’ but I’ll find out…Molly said it was her job to find out if this was a cult or not. That is actually not her job and she was hired by me.”

The Deep End captures the moment on film when Teal realizes Monahan betrayed her. Up until then, Swan was in the dark about Monahan’s report. She expected it to exonerate her just like Monahan had exonerated Aaravindha Himadra. The look on Teal’s face is priceless when Monahan says she was probably running a cult.

The moment Molly Monahan betrayed Teal Swan caught on camera

Kasbe recently told the Utah Review that Teal “hired a private investigator to determine if they are a cult or not.” He’s also stated Teal hiring Monahan was a central theme in his docuseries.

A quick Google search reveals in the first few results that Molly Monahan is a paid cult hack who slanders journalists. Kasbe and his team platformed Monahan to Hulu and painted a false narrative of her role. It’s shocking that a cult-funded investigator who is paid to slander journalists is promoted in a major documentary series.

At the end of the Teal Swan documentary, Swan gives a death stare to Matthias, her top assistant. He’s the one who found Molly Monahan, and told Teal she could be bought off. Monahan has just told Swan that she found evidence of her running a cult. “That is not an acceptable thing I just heard from her,” Swan says to Matthias. “We shouldn’t publish this,” Matthias says. “You fix this shit Matthias. How I am represented is a very big deal to me. I am trusting you to do that so I can focus on my work. I lost trust for you and Blake just now again.” Matthias sighs and rolls his eyes, realizing that he made a huge mistake and that Monahan had betrayed them. Teal had trusted them when they assured her it’d be safe to let Monahan inside.

When Monahan’s damning report is finished Teal blocks its release. Teal hired Monahan to exonerate her and Monahan got caught up in “TV personality” as Swan says. She was never interested in whether she was actually running a cult, otherwise she would have released the report as would be expected.

Director Jon Kasbe does the viewers a real disservice by not revealing the true story behind Monahan’s role in his Teal Swan documentary.

Imagine if Kasbe was filming a series about a trial and the defense hired a paid expert witness. Despite having been hired to support the defense, when the witness gives testimony it’s the opposite of what was agreed upon. Molly Monahan is an expert witness hired by the defense who went rogue. And Kasbe covered up this crucial aspect of the story.

I was recently chatting with an ex-member of the NXVIM sex cult about The Deep End, Jon Kasbe, Molly Monahan and Teal Swan. I said imagine that NXVIM leader Keith Raniere hired some hack private investigator to say they weren’t a cult. I said imagine this investigator slandered and smeared journalists who had exposed NXVIM. And I said then imagine a year later you see that same private investigator being promoted on a Hulu cult documentary as an unbiased, neutral investigator. “You’d be shocked and perhaps traumatized,” I said.

Molly Monahan is One of Many Problems in The Deep End

The false narrative Jon Kasbe created in The Deep End about Molly Monahan was one of many.

In her four-part video response to the series Swan alleges Kasbe manufactured scenes in the documentary, cleverly weaving together video clips, and audio recordings from different times to make them appear as one event. When the Conspirituality Podcast questioned Kasbe about allegations that he invented scenes he didn’t deny it. Rather he said he stood by the film and refused to go into a scene by scene analysis.

In one segment Kasbe shows a student saying “that’s bullshit” to Teal Swan after Swan told her her life was getting better. Swan released the full video clip and it showed the student said “that’s bullshit” in a separate part of the conversation minutes later not where Kasbe had placed it.

The Deep End will make other cult survivors extremely wary about sharing their stories.” – Matthew Remski, Conspirituality Podcast

Another scene that seems particularly harrowing is what appears to be Teal waterboarding a student who is unable to implement her teachings. Teal nods her head and you see a woman appear to be held under water and scream. She’s let up for a quick gasp of air only to be violently thrashed in the water again. More screaming. This pattern continues. The camera pans to Teal looking stoic like she’s enjoying the torture of a follower. Kasbe adds in harrowing sounding music.

The woman’s limp body is carried out of the water and she’s placed on a lounge chair with eyes closed, seemingly out of it. Her foot twitches. Teal is seen hovering over her head from behind and kissing her forehead. “I love you,” Teal says. “I love you,” the woman says.

The “waterboarding” was actually an optional group exercise that not everyone chose to participate in. “It was awesome” and “transformative,” one member said in a video afterward. It was a water birthing ceremony. Teal released footage of another member going through the same experience and it was extremely mild compared to how Kasbe framed it.

Another issue with the scene is that the woman who was thrashing in the water is a different woman from the one who says she loves Teal. It’s a different person that Teal is kissing on the forehead but the viewer would never know. A woman released a video saying it was actually her in the last scene. And you can see the skin complexions are different.

The ending of The Deep End shows Swan’s core team member Blake Dyer packing up and moving out of the group house. The series frames it as him leaving because of conflicts between his girlfriend and Teal. They show a scene where Teal is upset with Blake. It’s a dramatic moment. It never happened though. Blake moved out before his girlfriend even arrived in the country. Teal was upset in the scene for an entirely different reason. The viewer would never know this. Kasbe doctored sound and video to create an entirely fictional event that Blake and his girlfriend moved out over conflicts with Teal.

Swan claims that Kasbe and the production company lied to her and said the docuseries would be a “hero’s journey” and be about the “good work” she was “doing in the world.” She says she was told it’d be both “inspirational” and “truthful.”

Teal Swan is not portrayed favorably in The Deep End, however. Most viewers would see her as a dangerous cult leader after watching. Swan chides director Kasbe for using “ominous” music that sounds like a combination of “Friday 13th and the Shining.” She said it leaves a “threatening impression,” and I agree.

To prove how deceptive Kasbe was Swan released birthday video messages she was sent by the production team. “I feel so lucky to have met you, someone who is so brave and willing to do the hard things to make the world a better place,” Kasbe tells Swan. Kasbe says this long after the water birthing ceremony that he’d later portray as frightening. “Long after [Kasbe] has implied in other interviews he had strong doubts about Swan’s methods and character,” Matthew Remski of the Conspirituality Podcast said.

Producer Bits Sola even wrote a rap song for Teal showering her with praise.

Swan highlights several other ways in which the series falsely portrayed her and the work she was doing, at times creating narratives that weren’t there.

Conspirituality Podcast posted the segments that Teal released of the flattering video messages. They’ve been a steady critic of Kasbe’s flawed Teal Swan documentary and have devoted extensive coverage to it and Teal in the aftermath of its release.

It’s ironic that Kasbe says that Swan is now “creating false narratives” about his film when he created false narratives in his film. When asked about creating false narratives by Matthew Remski, Kasbe deflected. He blamed Swan for her refusal to self-reflect after The Deep End came out. Both Swan and Kasbe were unable to self-reflect, however.

Kasbe says Teal’s negative response to his series is the same as how she discredits members who leave her group. I think of a cop who abuses his authority. When one of his suspects cries foul, the cop says: They’re just a criminal, no one will believe them. Or a sex worker who says she was raped and no one believes her. Kasbe is using Swan’s compromised position to get away with editing murder.

The Teal Swan Documentary Damages Cult Reporting Efforts

Falsely editing scenes to make Swan appear “uniformly vindictive and dangerous” as Matthew Remski states only sets back cult reporting efforts. “The real work of legit journalism on high demand groups will become infinitely harder,” he says.

I want to quote Remski at length here because he nails it:

“Why are we going hard on The Deep End? Because when a well-funded streaming company produces demonstrably manipulative media about such a complex figure, everyone loses. Her followers lose the opportunity to see her more clearly. They lose even more trust in media that is not curated by Swan. Inner core members will likely harden their circle of protection, and they won’t be wrong.

Casual observers miss out on real social lessons, and relax into stylish freak-show infotainment. Cult researchers have to do damage control as their terms get thrown around with increasing laziness and sensationalism.

But what pisses me off most, as a cult survivor, is that The Deep End will make other cult survivors extremely wary about sharing their stories: for what real assurance do they have they will not be exploited, and that the complexities of their lives won’t be smoothed out in some storyboard meeting?”

Be Scofield is the author of the new book Hunting Lucifer: One Reporter's Search for Cults and Demons. Her reporting is mentioned in the NYtimes, Rolling Stone, People and more.

FURTHER READING:

My Teal Swan article: Inside Teal Swan’s Posh Cult