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  • Writer's picturePodcast Librarian

The Pope's Long Con: Nope, not that pope

The Premise (from Apple Podcasts):

In 2016, Danny Ray Johnson was elected to state office. The fast talking biker-preacher known as "The Pope" paints himself as a 9/11 hero. He says he raised the dead! But our seven month investigation uncovered a much different picture: Attempted arson. Another mysterious fire. Alleged bootlegging and molestation in the church. For years, Johnson broke laws. Now he helps make them. What happens when the institutions we rely on look the other way? How does a liar slip through the cracks into a position of power? This six-part series attempts to find out.

Series or standalone:


Begin listening to:

Chapter One: Welcome to Pope's House


Investigative reporting


R.G. Dunlop and Jacob Ryan (Louisville Public Media/Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting)

Sound/production quality:


Rating/age suitability:

Not for kids because of adult language/themes

Approximate length of episodes:

15-25 minutes

Curricular ties:


Similar recommended pods:

The topic is definitely reminiscent of some Wondery podcasts about eccentric frauds/criminals like Dirty John or Over My Dead Body: Joe Exotic (read my review)

Podcast Librarian’s Review:

I’m surprised I haven’t heard about this pod more often; maybe we’re so used to crooked politicians that it’s not news-worthy. As the description says, this is a wild story about a compulsive liar and law-breaker who somehow managed to con his way to the Kentucky House of Representatives. This is an NPR (affiliate) podcast, so the production and research is top-notch. It has a super catchy theme song, too! Each episode reveals a wilder part of Danny’s life and lies. The victim of his alleged abuse speaks out about her experience, which was pretty disturbing. This is an example of a man who used his influence and church to get what he wanted; the title comes from Danny referring to himself as the Pope. The church itself is insane—there’s a biker bar in it. And of course, there’s the story about the alligator. 🐊 The final episode detailing his death perfectly wraps up the series. If you like politics, podcast series, or just plain crazy stories, then you should give TPLC a listen!

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