The Hollywood Reporter has a nice scoop today: An open letter from Crash director Paul Haggis about his friend Leah Remini’s defection from the Church of Scientology.
The world became aware of Haggis’s own departure from Scientology in Lawrence Wright’s epic February 2011 New Yorker profile, “The Apostate.” And as we reported when we broke the news of Remini’s defection on July 8, one of the things that got Remini in some hot water with Scientology “ethics” officers was that she stood by Haggis when other Scientologists didn’t.
Now, he’s standing by her. But what also caught our eye was another stunning admission by Scientology’s hapless spokeswoman, Karin Pouw, who has once again admitted that the church is involved with anonymous websites that smear the reputations of people who dare to speak out about Scientology’s abuses.
More than a year ago, at the Village Voice, we explained how these websites work. A slew of them appeared after several former top Scientology officials defected and then went public. Some of them had URLs that shared a formula: “WhoIsMartyRathbun,” “WhoIsMikeRinder,” and yes, “WhoIsPaulHaggis” (see above). They not only had similar names, but they looked alike and shared a lot of information — much of it right out of Scientology’s propaganda magazine, Freedom.
Mike Rinder was the former top spokesman for Scientology and also ran the Office of Special Affairs, the church’s public relations, legal affairs, and intelligence-gathering wing. OSA also runs Scientology’s dirty tricks operations with the use of private investigators and attorneys. Rinder tells us there’s simply no doubt that OSA — the outfit he used to run — is behind the smear websites, which hide their connection to the church behind Internet services that conceal their ownership.
For years, we had looked for information to bolster that claim that these sites were operated by the church itself. Then, in that article we wrote last April, we explained what was then a big break: Karin Pouw had blundered and admitted to a British journalist that the church itself had produced a laughable “documentary” about former church official Marty Rathbun that appeared on many of the sites.
This is what she said in a letter to British reporter Guy Adams…
I further wish to point out that the Church has put out videos which show Rathbun lying in his own words, based on his own statements. To that end I further invite you to watch the video at this link showing Rathbun’s nature: http://www.whoismartyrathbun.com/
Pouw not only admitted that the video of Rathbun (“Marty Rathbun: A Violent Psychopath”) was produced by the church, she even directed him to the “WhoIsMartyRathbun” attack site.
Now, she’s done it again.
When The Hollywood Reporter published Haggis’s open letter this morning, the magazine checked with Karin Pouw for a statement, and apparently asked about the “WhoIsPaulHaggis” website, which attacks the director with some sneering, comical attacks that are right from the pages of Freedom.
Amazingly, Pouw not only admitted that the church is supplying information to these attack sites, but that it had never hidden that fact: “The church has never hidden the fact it supplied information for the websites,” she said to THR.
Wow. We hope other news organizations are paying attention. Just a couple of weeks ago, RadarOnline wrote this about the slimy smear sites: “RadarOnline.com has been unable to confirm any ties between the websites and the Church of Scientology.”
Next time, Radar, check with Karin Pouw.
Pouw also told The Hollywood Reporter that the church has nothing to do with registering the URL “WhoIsLeahRemini,” and we believe her. It’s our belief that the website was registered as a way to keep the church from buying it.
But it’s important to note that Scientology operates many attack sites that don’t use the “WhoIs” formula. As we reported in our story last year, there were more than 25 websites that attacked Marty Rathbun, largely with the same information but with many variations in their URLs. He may have the record for most sites aimed at him. With a quick search, we found six that were aimed at Mike Rinder.
In all, there may be as many as 100 anonymous smear sites actively targeting people who have dared to criticize the church and its leader, David Miscavige. They are filled with innuendo and juvenile attacks, and now the Church of Scientology has at least admitted that it has “supplied information” to them.
UPDATE: After seeing Haggis’s letter, the church has really outdone itself with a response that is beyond the pale. Here it is in all its glory…
STATEMENT BY CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY INTERNATIONAL CONCERNING PAUL HAGGIS’ “OPEN LETTER”
Mr. Haggis is a status-obsessed screenwriter who in the words of The Hollywood Reporter has been in “the wilderness” professionally for three years. Mr. Haggis once again is exploiting his tenuous connection with Scientology to grab headlines. His statement that the organization anonymously comments negatively about those who leave the Church is delusional and borders on paranoia.
Desperately craving attention, his self-serving “open letter” is a transparent plug for an upcoming film still lacking U.S. distribution. If Mr. Haggis was as successful and prolific at manufacturing drama for audiences as he is at manufacturing it for gossip sites, then his career might have never gotten lost in the “wilderness.”
Despite his spin, the truth is that Mr. Haggis was an inactive Scientologist for more than 30 years until he orchestrated a disingenuous “departure” in 2009 aimed solely at getting media attention. As a result, Paul Haggis has no first-hand knowledge about the Church of Scientology but instead relies on a small collection of unemployed bloggers living on the fringe of the Internet who are obsessed with spinning myths about the Church.
Mr. Haggis has chosen to align himself with a small posse of lunatics with arrest records, who have acknowledged in depositions to being secretly on the payroll of tabloids and who have admitted on national television to outright lying. As for Paul Haggis’ real story, see http://www.freedommag.org/special-reports/new-yorker/video-profile-the-many-personas-of-paul-haggis.html.
As to the true story of Scientology, under the 25-year leadership of Mr. Miscavige, following in the footsteps of our Founder, L. Ron Hubbard, the Church is enjoying tremendous expansion as shown in our 37 new Churches opening in six continents and the many new parishioners joining their congregations. Our Churches are open seven days a week and many have public display areas to answer all questions or one can visit our website, www.Scientology.org.
Posted by Tony Ortega on July 31, 2013 at 12:00
E-mail your tips and story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.