September 16, 2012 11:28pm PT by THR Staff
Church of Scientology Responds to Vanity Fair Expose in Angry, Eight-Page Letter
The Church of Scientology has fired off an eight-page letter to Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter over its cover story about the organization, accusing the magazine of "shoddy journalism, religious bigotry and potential legal liability."
The magazine's October 2012 issue, with Scientologist Tom Cruise's ex-wife Katie Holmes on the cover, features an expose of the organization, written by Maureen Orth, that includes an allegation that the church held secret auditions to find a wife for Cruise following his divorce from Nicole Kidman.
Among the shocking details: the women weren't told the real reason they were videotaping auditions; the chosen woman, a beautiful, Iranian-born honors graduate named Nazanin Boniadi, was cut off from her family and prompted to break off her engagement as part of her grooming period; she drew the ire of Cruise and Scientology leader David Miscavige over minor things perceived to be major acts of insubordination; Cruise would not break up with her directly and would not acknowledge her as she was forced to vacate his home; and Boniadi was banished to Scientology headquarters in Clearwater, Fla., where she was humiliated by being forced to clean toilets with toothbrushes and dig ditches in the dead of night, all the while forbidden to tell anyone what had just happened to her.
Other allegations include: Kidman was determined by the church to be a Suppressive Person and therefore an enemy to all Scientologists; Cruise's ex-girlfriend Penelope Cruz was dismissed by Miscavige as being a "dilettante" because she refused to give up her Buddhist beliefs; Cruise "was reportedly unable to entice a number of beautiful, well-known actresses" to become his future wife, including Sofia Vergara and Scarlett Johansson; and Cruise underwent a rigorous course of auditing -- long interrogation sessions during which the subject is required to reveal painful and deeply personal information about themselves -- and Miscavige would then reveal the secrets on those tapes to entertain whomever he was with.
On its website, the church posted a letter denying the allegations that was penned by Jeffrey K. Riffer of the law firm Elkins Kalt Weintraub Reuben Gartside LLP and was addressed to Vanity Fair's Carter.
"We are writing regarding your, your editor’s and reporter’s shoddy journalism, religious bigotry and potential legal liability arising out of Vanity Fair’s upcoming story about the Tom Cruise divorce," reads the letter, which has been turning up on the blogs of Scientology watchers for several days. "Significantly, while Maureen Orth was preparing her story, Vanity Fair ignored its staff and contributors who have firsthand knowledge of Mr. Cruise and of Mr. Miscavige and who would burden her story with the truth."
Riffer also accuses Orth of failing to make a legitimate attempt at a request for an interview with Miscavige, calling it a "disingenuous sham."
"... [S]he couldn’t possibly have thought that an 'Oh, by the way' phone call to the Church’s Public Affairs office requesting an interview with the ecclesiastical leader of the religion could possibly be accommodated," the letter reads. "If she were serious, she would have done at least a molecule of research in seeing that Mr. Miscavige travels across the country and around the world almost non-top, unlike the anti-Scientologist apostate sources who form the basis of her already-written story and who are available on a moment’s notice at the press of 'send' on any anti-Scientology hate-site blog. Is it usual for you to take over the editorial direction of Vanity Fair articles or is that reserved for hatchet-jobs of minority religions and its members?"
The letter goes on to address a list of 32 questions submitted to the church by Vanity Fair, including one seeking comment on the notion that Miscavige has been a "kind of 'third wheel' in Cruise's relationships and marriages."It cites Miscavige's extensive travels as proof that he is "not a 'third wheel' to anything or anyone."
"Ms. Orth appears to have only gleaned her information from fringe hate sites and their webmasters," it reads. "If she were writing a story about a Sikh religious leader, would she first latch onto the sites of white supremacists, then interview their most virulent and violent members and follow it up with mere 'fact check' questions to the Sikhs themselves? At the eleventh hour? And refuse to give the names of her white supremacist sources?
"The scenario is no different here. Scientology is a new religion and its beliefs not as well known as those of more ancient history. That does not excuse you or Ms. Orth for being ignorant. Rather, it demands you be even more sensitive to finding out what the true beliefs are of Scientology-which can only be told by the religion itself. Just because you don't think you are bigoted doesn't mean you aren't. Bigotry and ignorance go hand in hand and you are definitely and willfully ignorant of the actual beliefs of Scientology and the activities of its Churches."
The letter, which was written before the Vanity Fair issue hit newsstands, also threatens legal action.
"The disgraceful allegations Vanity Fair apparently plan to publish about Mr. Miscavige are defamatory," it reads. "If Vanity Fair goes forward with publication of such defamatory allegations, now that it is on notice that the story is false, the stain on its reputation will last long after any reader even remembers the article. The sting of the jury verdict will last longer still; far longer than any pleasure from racing to publish a poorly researched and sourced story."
Cruise's longtime lawyer, Bert Fields, also has denied that Cruise and the church held auditions for a mate.
In a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter earlier this month, Fields wrote, "Vanity Fair’s story is essentially a rehash of tired old lies previously run in the supermarket tabloids, quoting the same bogus 'sources.' It’s long, boring and false. ”
Cruise's most recent marriage ended after Holmes filed for divorce June 28 and the couple reached a settlement two weeks later.
Fields has threatened legal action recently against the National Enquirer and other media outlets in the wake of the high-profile breakup.