We were thoroughly blown away last night watching Aaron Smith-Levin talk about his family’s complex history in Scientology. We couldn’t believe how much territory Aaron and Leah Remini and Mike Rinder covered on the latest episode of Leah’s A&E series, Scientology and the Aftermath, from the IRS granting Scientology tax exempt status in 1993, to Aaron breaking down as he described losing his twin brother in a car accident while they were separated by Scientology’s “disconnection” policy.
We wondered what the Church of Scientology was going to put up as a reaction to the show. We didn’t have to wait long. A couple of hours after the episode aired, the church posted a number of videos to the website it maintains to rebut Remini’s show.
Among the people Scientology convinced to talk on camera about Aaron were his wife’s mother and sister. (Aaron’s wife Heather didn’t speak for Leah’s show, but she has sided with her husband against the rest of her family.)
With glassy-eyed performances, Heather’s mother and sister robotically repeated claims that Aaron was a scary guy who snapped at them and was probably a danger to his own wife and kids.
It was unseemly. And it probably won’t get any traction. But we wanted to point something out.
Two years ago, we wrote about the Smith family drama, and our story was told to us by Gayle Smith, Aaron’s mother. If you look at that article today, you can see that Gayle’s story matches the one her son told on Leah’s show last night.
Also, this story has played out over several years, and many of us were privy to the details, including Mike Rinder, who has worked with Aaron in his corporate research business.
And if you have been around Aaron, you know what a detail-oriented guy he is, and what a stickler for the facts. We pointed this out a year ago when we published a “Knowledge Report” that Aaron gave us from his collection. So many of the people we talk to who worked in Scientology management had to escape with nothing but the clothes on their backs. But Aaron is one of the exceptions, and he has all of the “KRs” that he submitted.
The one he gave us describes in minute detail what happened when he had a disagreement with a work superior, Jon Lundeen, over a financial planning document. Aaron said in the report that there was so much frustration between the two over the document, Lundeen took a swing at him. Aaron put it down to the constant sleep deprivation Sea Org workers go through, and characterized it as typical of Sea Org work.
Now, Lundeen has showed up in one of the videos Scientology posted last night to attack Aaron’s credibility.
“He’s like a snake oil salesman and what he wanted you to see he did a brilliant job of selling you on it. In truth in life he was very different than that and he had volatility of emotions and could go from selling you on what he was doing and his production and his all these different attributes and instantly become the evil villain. And it was dramatic. It was like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,” Lundeen says.
An “evil villain”? Similarly vague accusations are made in the other videos. But the stories that Aaron and his mother Gayle Smith have told are detailed, specific, and they agree in all of the details.
Scientology’s attack website wants its readers to believe that Aaron is hopeless as a father and is endangering the welfare of his children. We asked Aaron if he wanted to comment on the videos, and he sent us an earful. Well, that’s Aaron. We think his response is fascinating…
Erica Tozser (Sledge)
Erica is my sister-in-law. I feel sorry for her that she had to do this video. Fortunately, they didn’t make her say anything worse than “Aaron snaps at his kids and his wife.” I guess that’s the narrative they’re trying to discredit me with. But there’s a problem: Erica has been in the Sea Org at Flag since before Heather and I left the Sea Org in Los Angeles. The only time Erica has ever spent any time with me and my kids is at Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner, two times a year.
Erica says that before my wife met me she was very outgoing and dynamic, and after she married me that changed and Heather became withdrawn and fearful. Again, it’s weak sauce, but we still have a problem. Heather left home in California to go to the Delphi School in Portland, Oregon when Erica was about 6 years old. While Heather was at Delphi, Heather’s family moved to Clearwater, Florida. From Delphi, Heather went directly to the Sea Org in Los Angeles. Heather had almost zero physical contact with her sisters (less than once per year) until about 17 years later, in 2006, when Heather and I moved back to Clearwater. To get an idea of how little contact Heather’s family had with her after she left home, I didn’t even meet Heather’s father until after Heather and I were married. None of her family members attended our wedding in the Sea Org. I only met Heather’s father once between the time we were married, and when we left the Sea Org over 3 years later. When Heather and I moved back to Clearwater, Erica was already in the Sea Org at Flag, so we almost never saw her. These might seem like minor, maybe even petty points, but it just goes to show that the Church has taken someone who has no idea what Heather was like in her adult life, or what she was like after she married her first husband in the Sea Org, or what she was like after she married me…and have asked her to make statements that she should know, but doesn’t.
Anne is my mother-in-law. For context, between my mother-in-law Anne and my father-in-law Imre, Anne is the one who is 100 percent on the Kool-Aid; Imre is not quite as much the same way. For example, Anne is the one who will hide when my daughters go across the street to say hello. Imre won’t do that. I want to be upset by this video, but I’m not. Her will is not her own. If the best they could get her to say was “Aaron got angry at Imre. Aaron got angry at Katarina (Heather’s other sister). Aaron spanked his child. I can’t really be bothered to be upset by it.
Juliana and I shared an office. We had the same post, but for opposite orgs (I was Day, she was Foundation). She and I were good friends. We got along great. We had trained at Flag together. I’ve known Juliana since 1995. It’s puzzling to me that Scientology regularly has the POW-style videos include obviously false generalities like, “He would only come out of his office to scream at staff,” “The area he was running never expanded,” “Nothing went well,” “He would never solve anything,” “He never fixed anything,” “he didn’t do anything, ever,” “From day one not a truthful person at all,” “He has always been angry about everything,” etc. These are comments made about a post I held for three straight years as one of the key executives in the organization. Similarly absurd statements have been made about people who held very senior international management positions for decades.
Such statements raise the question…if true, how could these executives have not only remained on their posts, but also get promoted during the time? The Church embarrasses itself by making such obviously false generalities.
Juliana makes the strange claim that I was somehow caught watching porn in the middle of the day. Not only are the people doing these POW videos living in a bubble that prevents them from knowing that the real world doesn’t give a damn about porn, but the statement is also easily proven false. Watching porn in the Sea Org gets you sent to the RPF. Not only was I never sent to the RPF, but I was also never reported in my entire Sea Org career for “watching porn”, much less in the middle of the day, in the org, on my computer. Oh wait…one more detail…THE COMPUTERS IN THE ORG HAD NO INTERNET ACCESS. That’s how dumb these videos are. You couldn’t get porn on an org computer if you wanted to.
At 2:25 of Juliana’s video she references an altercation between me and Jon Lundeen. Last year, Tony published a copy of the report I wrote about this incident. Compare Juliana’s version of the event to the report.
At 3:15 in Juliana’s video she says that when I found out my brother died, I didn’t care at all and actually laughed about it. You know…if I still had any feeling that these people were maybe just doing these videos against their will and perhaps they deserved some sympathy…that extinguished it. No decent human being would agree to utter such a disgusting lie about someone who used to be a good friend.
Jon Lunden is actually a famous Sea Org member. His wife Edy Lundeen was a Class XII auditor, and later a reg for Flag. He worked on the Apollo. He was the Captain of ASHO Day, where I worked. He was my senior’s senior. Jon and I worked closely together. One thing I’ll grant…John and I both have healthy tempers, and there was a sort of mutual respect between us over that. We would argue about many things; but at least he knew I could dish it out as well as take it. He would say to me “if you would just direct some of that emotion towards your juniors instead of directing it at me, you could get more done.” It’s kind of ironic to hear him criticize me for having a short fuse. I actually respect the fact that John didn’t say anything too crazy other than mild insults about not being a particularly honest Sea Org member. Yawn. I literally worked with Jon Lundeen 7 days a week. He was the Captain. We spoke maybe 30 to 50 times per day for about 3 years. If that’s the best he’s got, I must have done pretty well.
I won’t bother commenting on the videos from Ben Francis or Julie McCloskey. Both were low-level staff members in another org who I had almost no contact with. They were Juliana’s junior’s junior’s junior, and had nothing to do with me.
What’s missing in these videos is “testimonials” from anyone who was either directly senior to me or directly junior to me. Come on now! Jon Lundeen had almost nothing unkind to say about me. They couldn’t get ANYONE from my own org, who worked directly above me or directly below me to talk trash about me on video? I guess I wasn’t such a bad Sea Org member after all.
Aaron also pointed out to us that Scientology’s website accuses Aaron of being the subject of a “federal investigation” regarding his work as a corporate researcher.
It’s just completely false. But what makes it interesting is that I was involved in investigating Herbalife, which is also something of a cult. And I was doing that work on behalf of Bill Ackman. And in response, Herbalife put up a hate website about Bill Ackman, just like Scientology does to its critics (http://www.therealbillackman.com/).
I had done a very public presentation with Bill exposing Herbalife as a pyramid scheme.
As a part of Herbalife’s counter-campaign against Bill, Herbalife tried to get the feds to “look into” the people who were doing work for him. Herbalife got newspapers to run headlines that the feds were looking into it. But the truth is it never happened. I never received so much as a letter from any state or federal agency asking me anything about any of the research I’d done for Bill. Herbalife’s lawyers sent me a very Scientology-like letter accusing me of all sorts of things, and sent copies to Fox Business and MSNBC to get them to comment on “the news”. But it was all bluster. Nothing ever happened.
Thanks for getting into that muck in order to help us understand what it’s like to be slimed, Aaron.
And here’s a piece of evidence you won’t see the Church of Scientology offer…
Go here to start making your plans.
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Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.
The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield