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The Top 25 People Enabling Scientology, No. 14: The Los Angeles Times

 
What happened to the Los Angeles Times?

That’s a question we’ve asked ourselves often in recent years as we’ve watched what was once one of the best investigators of Scientology’s controversies become almost completely incurious about stories unfolding right in the newspaper’s own backyard.

In 1990, a legendary series by LA Times reporters Joel Sappell and Robert Welkos rocked Scientology so hard, the church fired back by renting billboards to selectively quote from their work as a bizarre sort of turnabout.

Sappell and Welkos wrote about the ordeal they went through putting together the series, the ‘Fair Game’ harassment they endured. Sappell saw his beloved dog poisoned, and he always wondered if the church was behind it. Welkos had funeral pamphlets anonymously dropped on his front porch.

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The work they did was monumental, paving the way for so many investigations to follow. And through the early 2000s, the LA Times continued its excellent tradition of fearlessly digging into Scientology. As late as 2005, the Times put together an important look at Gold Base and the relationship of Scientology leader David Miscavige and actor Tom Cruise.

Miscavige tried to head off that story by having then-spokesman Mike Rinder give the newspaper this photo of Dave and Tom to show what a normal couple of guys they were…

 

 
Since then, however, the Times has displayed a remarkable lack of interest in anything to do with Scientology. It’s become such a running joke here at the Bunker, our readers will often keep track of how many other publications will jump on some new Scientology item without the Times joining in.

A couple of examples not only prove the point, but also suggest that the lack of interest by the Times is having a real effect on Scientology’s ability to get away with its infuriating slipperiness with law enforcement and with its confounding litigation strategies.

Take Laura DeCrescenzo, for example. This is a woman who not only sued the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles in 2009, and for alleged abuses that happened in Los Angeles, but the New Mexico woman even held a press conference in Los Angeles about her lawsuit with the help of Anonymous in 2010.

As a young girl who had grown up in the church, she took part in pickets at the Los Angeles courthouse which the Times reported on back when it was still interested in the subject. Now she was suing Scientology because of the horrors she had been through as a child in the Sea Organization, working 90 hours a week for virtually no pay as a 12-year-old. When she turned 13, she was moved up to the adult schedule, 112 hours of work a week.

And then, at 17, while still technically a child, Laura was coerced into having an abortion, because that was Scientology policy. Again, that happened in Los Angeles as well, just a few blocks from the headquarters of the Los Angeles Times.

Laura fought bravely with Scientology in court, and the documents that became available in her case — which she had to fight to the US Supreme Court to get her hands on — contained stunning evidence of the way Scientology mistreats children, which we reported on here in story after story.

But year after year, Laura had to wait through more delays, get through more court hearings, and endure depositions and court filings that attacked her, with no pressure to speed the case along that might come with some big media attention.

Finally, after nine years of battles, with just days to go before a trial was finally scheduled to begin, Scientology leader David Miscavige threw in the towel and cut a huge check to end the case.

Nine years of battles. Nine years of delays. Nine years of incredible revelations about Scientology’s abuses of children, and nearly all of it in Los Angeles.

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And in that time, the Los Angeles Times had not written a single word about Laura DeCrescenzo or her lawsuit.

Finally, after we broke the news that the case was ended, the Times ran a short wire story written by the Associated Press. Even then, the Los Angeles newspaper of record couldn’t be bothered to put one of its own reporters on the story.

Or take the Islams. We first broke the story of Hanan Islam and her son Rizza five years ago. They’re accused of running a sophisticated Medi-Cal scam that stole about $4 million from the state of California through the use of a Scientology drug rehab clinic in Compton, a Los Angeles suburb. That scam also roped in three prominent local African-American high school officials, two principals and the coach of a legendary football program, who all lost their jobs when the crime, which made use of unwitting high school students as fodder for bogus insurance claims, was uncovered.

Five years later, Hanan and Rizza Islam are still awaiting trial after their case has been delayed and delayed, while the lack of media interest has provided no pressure to bring it to a conclusion.

And yet, even though this case involves Scientology, the Nation of Islam, the use of high school students as patsies, the destruction of the careers of African-American educators, and also some wild scenes in court when the Islams tried, briefly, to use some bizarre sovereign citizen arguments to clog up the proceedings, the Los Angeles Times has, again, not written a single word about the case.

Judges pay attention. They know when a case is being ignored by the media, and when one is on the front burner. And we believe there’s no question that these cases and others have been allowed to go on year after year because the Los Angeles Times can’t be bothered to cover them, even though they’re unfolding right down the street.

Even in a case as obvious as Danny Masterson’s criminal prosecution and the civil lawsuit filed by his rape accusers, the Times has written only the most superficial pieces at the most obvious junctures, like the day we first broke the news of the LAPD investigation of Masterson, or when charges were finally laid against him in June.

Where is the in-depth coverage of the incredible background of Masterson’s case and Scientology’s involvement in it? It’s only here at the Underground Bunker that you’ve read, for example, that the Scientology auditor, Angie LaClaire, who interrogated both Masterson and his accuser we’ve named Victim B vanished before the LAPD could interview her. Or that Masterson was brought in by the church to “confront” Victim B’s allegations in a meeting that ended because Masterson made jokes about his rape of her. Or that Victim B ended up getting paid by Masterson to shut up after Scientology had managed to derail the original LAPD investigation.

Why are you reading those things here, and not on the front page of the Los Angeles Times?

But wasn’t it the LA Times, a reader might point out, that in 2015 had a blockbuster story about David Miscavige paying private investigators to follow his own father, Ron Miscavige, and those private investigators getting busted by police in a small Wisconsin town and then spilling their guts?

Yes, that was a terrific story, and we then subsequently revealed that the LA Times had that story because Lisa Marie Presley dropped it in their laps after getting it from Ron Miscavige himself. Lisa Marie was media savvy enough to know that it would be a much more impactful for the story to come from the Times than from Ron (he did include the story in his subsequent book, “Ruthless”), and even the incurious Times couldn’t ignore it after Presley put it in their hands.

And wasn’t it the Times that had the great little story that the only precinct in Los Angeles to vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election was the one that includes Scientology’s PAC Base (“Big Blue”), with Scientology employees making up a large percentage of the voters?

Yes, that was a great story. And it only reminded us of what the Times can do with its proximity to some of Scientology’s most important locations and with a little shoe leather. For some reason, however, the Times just seems to have little curiosity about what Los Angeles resident Leah Remini has been going through as she’s picked up two Emmy awards while putting together a TV series and now a podcast about Scientology, or why a Black man was gunned down by Inglewood police at a Scientology church last year, or how a prominent African-American clergy figure and USC fellow got caught up in a bizarre probe about a bogus letter forged by Scientology in his name, or questions about where Scientology has been keeping David Miscavige’s wife Shelly for the last 15 years.

Last year, we were fortunate enough to hook up with a great news crew that took us with them up to Twin Peaks to see the compound where we believe Shelly is being held. It’s just a couple of hours drive from Los Angeles, but the crew that brought us along wasn’t from LA, it was from Australia.

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For fifteen years Shelly has been kept in that compound, just a short drive from the LA Times offices. And the first news organization to actually ring the buzzer on the gate flew from the other side of the frigging globe.

And yet, what really stunned us was to learn that some LA Times journalists may not be aware of the problem.

Last year, we were gobsmacked to see this exchange on Twitter, when a woman named Sandy Marks challenged Times reporter Joel Rubin about his newspaper’s lack of Scientology coverage…

 

 
Rubin’s condescending response was so galling not only because he seemed unaware of what Sandy was talking about, but that he answered questions about the Times’ current lack of Scientology coverage by pointing her to heroic work Joel Sappell did thirty years ago.

Are Times reporters really this clueless about what a joke their publication has become when it comes to Scientology coverage? And what keeps them from covering even the most obvious Scientology stories going on in their coverage area?

How does this happen, for example: In November 2019, the Times noted that That ’70s Show might be dropped by Netflix (which recently did happen). The article discussed various things about how shows get renewed or not, and then, it ended with these paragraphs…

The value of some of Carsey-Werner’s shows, however, could be affected by controversies surrounding its stars.

One series that has been hurt is “The Cosby Show,” which is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Bill Cosby was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison after he was convicted in 2018 on three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

In 2018, comedian Roseanne Barr posted a racist tweet, causing ABC to cancel her revival of the original “Roseanne” series. A spinoff, “The Conners,” has been a hit without Barr.

End of story. No seriously, that was it. There was no mention in the Times story, which specifically brought up the subject of actor controversies and how they might affect syndication, that Scientologist actor Danny Masterson, a member of the That ’70s Show cast, was being investigated for the rape of four different women by the LAPD, three of whom were Scientologists at the time. Eventually, seven women came forward to the police, and the DA in June charged him for the rape of three of them.

It’s almost like the Times goes out of its way to avoid the S-word.

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And while we will admit that we’ve enjoyed beating the Times to some stories in its own backyard, we’d really like to see the kinds of stories that a major publication like the Times could do with its resources. Look at what Tracey McManus has been able to accomplish at the Tampa Bay Times, with her amazing investigation last year that Scientology quietly doubled its footprint in downtown Clearwater after the town spurned David Miscavige over a tiny plot of land.

And McManus managed to put together that investigation even as the paper she works for, like so many others, has been ravaged by the economic forces that are destroying the news industry, an excuse we see people advance as a reason why the LA Times can’t cover Scientology like it used to. The Tampa Bay Times is in such dire shape, it’s no longer putting out a print version of the paper every day, and yet it still has the fortitude to monitor David Miscavige’s moves in Clearwater. What’s the LA Times’s excuse?

It must be the ownership, we are sometimes told. But the Times has changed hands twice since 2000, the latest time in 2018, and that change in who’s holding the reins hasn’t seemed to affect its incuriosity about Scientology. And at a time when Scientology stories at other publications are just as popular as ever, in case the Times was concerned about, you know, attracting readers.

Here’s something we wish the LA Times would look into: In recent years, we’ve noticed a distinct trend of Miscavige shifting Scientology’s center of gravity from Southern California to Clearwater. And in recent months, it has appeared to accelerate, with evidence that suggests Scientology may be all but abandoning Los Angeles as it builds up Clearwater for a sort of last stand.

McManus’s reporting has certainly bolstered the Florida side of that equation. Imagine what the LA Times, with its talented reporters, could turn up about Scientology’s demise if it really wanted to.

Isn’t it time that LA’s big media dog started acting again like the bulldog it once was instead of the lapdog it’s become?

 
The Top 25 People Enabling Scientology
14: The Los Angeles Times
15: Jeffrey Riffer
16: James Packer
17: Louis Farrakhan
18: Mark “Marty” Rathbun
19: Wally Pope

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20: Gensler
21: Parents who subscribe to ABCMouse
22: Graham Norton and other celebrity strokers
23: The apologist academics
24: Rebecca Dobkin and other low-level PI grunts
25: DirecTV and filmmakers buffing Dave’s channel

 
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Source Code

“Now, you’ve got the Havingness Process established. And you say, ‘Where isn’t that wall’ or whatever it is, see, whatever the Havingness Process is. ‘Thank you. Where isn’t that wall? Thank you. Where isn’t the ceiling? Thank you. Where isn’t the floor? Thank you. What have you withheld from a home?’ And the guy goes figure, figure, figure, think, think, think, clank, clank, clank, figure, figure, figure, figure, figure, figure, figure, figure, figure, figure. ‘Well, in a past life I used to take all my money down to the pub and I never gave any to the wife. I withheld money from the home.’ And you say, ‘Thank you. Where isn’t the wall? Thank you. Where isn’t that ceiling? Thank you. Where isn’t that floor? Thank you.’ Got the idea?” — L. Ron Hubbard, September 16, 1961

 
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Overheard in the FreeZone

“Well, if there are a bunch of out of touch retards like yourself who are divorced from the society that you live in, aren’t able to get a large group of people together, and aren’t able to get good results visible to other people, then criticism of Scientology technology is merited. Scientology advanced tech doesn’t matter, and is out-gradient. Get 20 million people to do early processes from 1953 or 1956. Force Scientology to be the state religion. Impose it on the land like Islam. Make there be Cohesion and Unity. Then handle other case factors if you want. A group of 5,000 people (the Sea Org) isn’t saving anyone. A group of 10 million would be far better but still would be too low. Apply the Confusion Formula and figure out how to help people at lower levels.”

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Random Howdy

“Their only real motivation is to eliminate the competition. All the humanitarian shit is window dressing.”

 
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Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Arraignment scheduled for September 18.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay’s sentencing is set for October 5 in White Plains, NY. Jeffrey’s is set for October 24.
Hanan and Rizza Islam and other family members, Medi-Cal fraud: Next pretrial conference set for Jan 12 in Los Angeles
Dennis Nobbe, Medicare fraud, PPP loan fraud: Charged July 29, bond raised to $350,000 on Aug 27. Prosecutors appealed denial of their motion to have bond revoked, response from defense due Sept 11, response by prosecutors on Sept 14.

Civil litigation:
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Oral arguments were heard on July 30 at the Eleventh Circuit
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Motion for reconsideration denied on August 11
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Sept 29 (CSI/RTC demurrer against Riales, Masterson demurrer), Oct 7-19 (motions to compel arbitration)
Jane Doe v. Scientology (in Miami): Jane Doe dismissed the lawsuit on May 15 after the Clearwater Police dropped their criminal investigation of her allegations.
Matt and Kathy Feschbach bankruptcy appeal: Eleventh Circuit ruled on Sept 9 that Feshbachs can’t discharge IRS debt in bankruptcy.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Second amended complaint filed, trial set for Nov 9, 2021.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: Trial concluded, awaiting verdict.

 
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Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[Elisabeth Moss, Michael Peña, and Laura Prepon]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?

 
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THE WHOLE TRACK

[ONE year ago] Charles Barkley becomes a slam dunk photo opportunity for Scientology
[TWO years ago] Scientology’s surprisingly weak attempt to turn Hurricane Florence into PR gold
[THREE years ago] Disconnected at birth — another infuriating Scientology saga
[FOUR years ago] VIDEO: City council candidate exposed as Scientology spy in live public hearing
[FIVE years ago] ‘Fundamentalist’ Scientology means chasing the ideal of Neo while turning your back on family
[SIX years ago] Scientology says it’s received $5.7 million from Google in advertising grants
[SEVEN years ago] TOM CRUISE IN CLEARWATER: Scientology Gathering Big Names For Product Launch
[NINE years ago] Scientology Dodges a Bullet in Australia: Church Told to Pay Workers, Says “We’ll Get Right On That”
[TWELVE years ago] Jason Beghe Is Still Denouncing Scientology — This Time in Germany

 
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 2,062 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,566 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,086 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,106 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 997 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,304 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,172 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,946 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,750 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,066 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,632 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,551 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,719 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,300 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,561 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,599 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,312 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,837 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,367 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,927 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,067 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,387 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,242 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,361 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,717 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,020 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,126 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,528 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,400 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,983 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,478 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,732 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,841 days.

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Posted by Tony Ortega on September 16, 2020 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, 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 can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2019 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2019), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | 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 | Shelly Miscavige, 14 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 | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele

 

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