'Ashley Madison': Christian YouTubers Sam and Nia tell all in Netflix series

In this photo illustration, a man visits the Ashley Madison website on August 19, 2015, in London, England. Hackers who stole customer information from the cheating site dumped 9.7 gigabytes of data to the dark web, fulfilling a threat to release sensitive information including account details, log-ins and credit card details if Avid Life Media, the owner of the website, didn't take Ashley offline permanently.
In this photo illustration, a man visits the Ashley Madison website on August 19, 2015, in London, England. Hackers who stole customer information from the cheating site dumped 9.7 gigabytes of data to the dark web, fulfilling a threat to release sensitive information including account details, log-ins and credit card details if Avid Life Media, the owner of the website, didn't take Ashley offline permanently. | Carl Court/Getty Images

Christian influencer couple Sam and Nia Rader are heavily featured in the hit Netflix series “Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal,” where the couple candidly discuss the fallout that occurred after Sam was exposed in the 2015 Ashley Madison hack and why they’re thankful for the scandal. 

The three-part series recounts how Ashley Madison, a website designed for people seeking extramarital affairs, experienced a massive data breach that led to the public release of its user data. Among the millions of users whose information was leaked, Rader's email address was found, revealing that he had used the site.

At the time, Rader, who with his family had shot to fame thanks to their YouTube channel featuring viral videos like "Husband Surprises Wife with Pregnancy Announcement!" admitted to having an account but claimed that he had never actually used it to pursue any affairs. He posted a video, flanked by Nia, in which he claimed that both God and his wife had forgiven him.

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"She has forgiven me for this mistake that I made in opening the account," Sam said in the video. "I have sought forgiveness from God, and He has forgiven me, so I have been completely cleansed of this sin."

Still, Rader's exposure on Ashley Madison sparked significant media attention and public scrutiny, given his persona as a devout Christian and family man on his YouTube channel — and in the Netflix documentary, which released May 15, he admitted he hadn’t been entirely truthful in his confession. 

In the docuseries, Rader reveals he decided to join Ashley Madison, which operated under the slogan "Life is short. Have an affair,” using the name “dirty_little_secret_man” while working night shift at his job as a nurse, looking for excitement outside his marriage, which he said had become monotonous following the birth of their first child.

A short time later, the Texas-based duo uploaded a video of themselves lip-syncing to “Love is an Open Door” from the Disney film “Frozen,” which went viral and eventually allowed Sam to quit his job and vlog full time. “Sam and Nia” quickly found fame thanks to their content, which often revolved around everyday family life, parenting and their Christian faith.

During this time, Sam said he deleted his Ashley Madison account and believed his past was behind him. However, in 2015, a group calling themselves "The Impact Team" gained access to Ashley Madison’s user database and other sensitive information and demanded that the website be shut down.

When Ashley Madison’s parent company, Avid Life Media, refused to shut down the sites, the hackers began releasing the stolen data. On Aug. 18, 2015, the first batch of data was released, which included the personal details of millions of users. This was followed by more releases in the subsequent days — including Sam’s name. 

In the docuseries, Sam recalled how he was at an airport heading to a vlogging conference with Nia when news of the leak emerged, forcing him to reveal his behavior to his wife. 

Though Nia initially forgave him, she had “no idea” just how far back his unfaithfulness actually went, Sam admitted in the series. Through tears, he shared how his pastor encouraged him to reveal to Nia how, throughout their marriage, he’d visited massage parlors and strip clubs, which he said gave him “easy access to that pleasure” he “wanted more of.”

“It thought having that extra sex outside of marriage would be exciting,” he said.

Sam also revealed he’d attempted on several occasions to engage in extramarital affairs with the couple’s acquaintances, even with some of Nia’s best friends who didn’t reciprocate.

“I was cheating on my wife with these people,” he said.

Overwhelmed by the “betrayals” she’d faced, Nia said she couldn’t see a way forward: “I was reeling inside, I felt like my world was crumbling. Every single aspect of my life up until this point felt like a lie.”

“Yes, the betrayals were out, but so was the real Sam — like, this is me and all my flaws, too,” Nia added. “It’s heartbreaking to love someone so much to the point where you don’t know if it’s good for you anymore or not, and I had to sit down and find out.”

However, thanks to counseling from the couple’s pastor, the duo is still together today and continue to create content for YouTube, where they have 2.5 million subscribers. They now share four children together and said on their channel they wanted to participate in the Netflix series to “help other couples” who may be struggling.

“I started to think of the selfish decisions I made,” Sam said. “It was all about me, I wasn’t thinking about Nia. I hoped she could see this was not a confessional, it was a repentance, a complete change.”

Near the end of the docuseries, the couple say they don’t “regret” that the hack happened, as it was necessary to expose the dark parts of Sam’s past and work toward healing.

“I think it was very good for him to feel the weight of what he had done,” Sam’s pastor said. “In feeling the true threat of losing what he loved most, he was able to begin really dealing with the depths that he’d gone to and the dark places he had traveled.”

When asked how he feels about the fact that Ashley Madison is still operating and in existence, Sam said, “It’s evil on a whole different level, in my opinion.”

“There are a lot of things I do regret, but I don’t regret the hack … it had to happen for where we’re at today.” 

The series, which has remained in the Netflix Top 10 since its release, also features interviews with former employees, experts and other users impacted by the scandal. It touches on a broader scandal involving the site's poor data security and the use of fake profiles and bots to engage users. 

Despite charging users $20 for a "full delete" service, which was supposed to permanently remove all their information, the site did not actually delete user accounts as promised and retained much of the user data despite the payment​.

There are also several allusions to biblical morals woven throughout the series; in episode one, former Ashley Madison vice president of sales Evan Back says, "They’d say, 'Who’s your biggest competitor?' And I’d say, 'The Bible.’”

In another scene, Marc Morgenstern, former creative director at Ashley Madison, misinterprets the Bible: “There was a moral outrage because [of] infidelity,” he said. “In the Bible, [it] says, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ That's one of the big 10, right? Encouraging more of this behavior. Of course, they don't know there's 613 commandments, actually, not just 10. And one of them is ‘don't eat shrimp.’ So, you know, you're already breaking that law."

Other notable figures exposed in the hack included Hunter Biden, Josh Duggar of “19 Kids and Counting Fame” and Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda, a Vatican official. The series also highlights the story of John Gibson, a seminary professor who killed himself after his name was exposed in the hack, along with others. 

Christi Gibson, John’s widow, warned her social media followers about the Netflix documentary, noting that it might be a difficult watch: “If you watch it, let me warn you, it’s not a faith-based project. There is sleaze. You will be uncomfortable. But nothing can hide God’s beauty and his glory,” she wrote in an Instagram post.

On their YouTube channel, Sam and Nia, who also wrote a book about the scandal, posted a video of themselves emotionally watching the Netflix documentary. 

“I’m sorry,” Sam said. 

“It’s OK,” Nia responds. “I’ve already forgiven you.”

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