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Catherine Oxenberg and Leah Remini: Celebrity whistle-blowers getting huge results

[Catherine Oxenberg]

This week’s story about Catherine Oxenberg in the Daily Mail about her recent book about Nxivm has us thinking about some parallels with Leah Remini and Scientology, and we’ll just put down a few thoughts in the hope that it will spark some conversation.

Like Scientology, Nxivm has been rocked by a series of journalistic exposes over the years. The Albany Times-Union has been doggedly covering Keith Raniere since the very beginning, and bombshells have landed in places like Vanity Fair, the New York Post, and on Frank Parlato’s ArtVoice. (And here, Parlato lists a timeline of those pieces.)

When we published a story about Raniere’s war with cult expert Rick Ross in the Village Voice in 2007, it was pretty obvious that Nxivm had quite a bit in common with Scientology and its aggressive way of dealing with critics.

Scientology itself has been repeatedly laid wide open by great journalistic efforts, from the Daily Mail UK in the 1960s, to the Washington Post in the 1970s, to Forbes and the Los Angeles Times in the 1980s, and of course Time magazine’s big cover story in 1991. In more recent years, the Tampa Bay Times uncorked a couple of blockbusters in 2009 and 2011, and since then Scientology increasingly has been exposed in major books and television documentaries.


And there’s another parallel between the two groups. Scientology has long been obsessed with celebrities, who convince some people, at least, that there must be something attractive about the organization.


But we’ve pointed out in recent years how much that strategy is now backfiring as figures like Jason Beghe, Paul Haggis, and Leah Remini not only left the church but also spoke out about its controversies. Leah Remini’s television series in particular has raised awareness of Scientology’s abuses like nothing before.

Similarly, Nxivm chugged along despite one press expose after another, but then it had its own major celebrity defection that changed everything.

Actress Catherine Oxenberg’s short association with Nxivm and then her efforts to get her daughter India out of it resulted in an October 2017 front-page piece in the New York Times.

Within months, Raniere had been arrested in Mexico, and a few months later four others were taken into custody, including Smallville actress Allison Mack, and the six-defendant criminal case is scheduled for trial next month.

Would that have happened if a celebrity didn’t turn on Nxivm, resulting in the New York Times article after years of other press exposes?

And why hasn’t Leah Remini’s efforts had the same effect on Scientology? Once again, we are reminded of the incredible protection Scientology has as a federally-recognized tax-exempt church.

Is a New York Times expose with Leah Remini what it’s going to take to get the feds off their asses?

Well, those are just some random thoughts we’re having this morning.


Posted by Tony Ortega on March 10, 2019 at 10:00

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Tony Ortega is a journalist who was formerly the editor of The Village Voice. He’s written about Scientology since 1995, and in May 2015 released a book about Scientology’s harassment of Paulette Cooper titled ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely,’ and more recently a compilation of his stories, ‘Battlefield Scientology.’ He continues to monitor breaking developments in the Scientology world, as well as other subjects at The Underground Bunker. You can reach him by sending him a message at tonyo94 AT (Drop him a line if you’d like to get an e-mail whenever a new story is posted.)


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