Scientology Series Co-Hosts Leah Remini, Mike Rinder Defend Paul Haggis Amid Sexual Misconduct Claims

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images; Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Paul Haggis; (inset) Leah Remini and Mike Rinder

"Claims of anonymous accusers who have NOT gone to law enforcement are not credible," the A&E co-hosts wrote in a Monday letter that takes aim at the Church of Scientology.

Leah Remini and Mike Rinder have released a lengthy statement on the sexual misconduct and assault accusations being leveled against Oscar-winning filmmaker and prominent Scientology defector Paul Haggis.

"Paul Haggis deserves, based on his record as a gentleman and humanitarian, to be judged when all the evidence has been taken under penalty of perjury in a court of law," wrote the co-hosts of A&E's Scientology and the Aftermath in an open letter posted on Monday. "Because claims of anonymous accusers who have NOT gone to law enforcement are not credible."

Haggis left the church after 35 years in 2009 and was the most famous former member to speak out publicly against the church at the time, including in a New Yorker profile and by appearing in Alex Gibney's award-winning HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. Haggis recently appeared on the second season of Remini's acclaimed Scientology series in a September episode where he further detailed his well-publicized church exit and the personal attacks that ensued — a practice that is well explored on the show and something the church denies.

In an open letter titled "Concerning Paul Haggis" posted to Rinder's website, Remini, who famously left the church in 2013, and her co-host — also a high-profile Scientology defector, as he was the church's former spokesman — address the recent allegations that have come out against Haggis amid the #MeToo movement.

The allegations stem from a civil lawsuit charging Haggis with raping a publicist, prompting three additional women to anonymously come forward in January with their own sexual misconduct accusations, including another publicist who says he forced her to perform oral sex, then raped her. Haggis denied the original rape allegation in an extortion lawsuit filed against the original woman, and said she and her lawyer had demanded a $9 million payment to avoid legal action. His attorney said of the new allegations: "He didn't rape anybody." (The women denied any connection to Scientology when speaking with the Associated Press.)

Remini and Rinder opened their letter by acknowledging that in the current climate, "there is plenty of reason to worry about defending anyone accused of sexual assault." They then added, "But the fear of consequences for speaking our truth has not held us back in the past and isn’t about to start now."

Citing their work with sexual assault victims on and off the show, the pair stated, "We have avoided trial by media."

The Million Dollar Baby and Crash screenwriter "has devoted his time, skill and money to worthy causes without fanfare for decades," Remini and Rinder wrote, calling attention to his championing of women, LGBTQ and human rights. "Like all of us, Paul Haggis is not perfect. Unlike a lot of us, he is truly a gentleman."

They then explained, "Like those of us who were scientologists, we trusted and confided in our church to seek resolution for our shortcomings. What is different about scientology is the detailed records they maintain of everything you tell them. And beyond that, they conduct intense interrogations based on the idea that only when all specifics and details are disclosed can one find relief. The names, dates, and minute details of any indiscretions, and even thoughts, are all recorded."

The letter continued, "Only a scientologist can understand the pressure one feels to offer up even the slightest thing that the scientology organization might consider a transgression of THEIR mores. This information is used against anyone who departs scientology and dares speak their mind. This is not imaginary. There is a documented history of such things. When someone is declared an 'enemy' by scientology, they are fair game."

This process of confessing in Scientology is called "auditing" and is conducted by an E-meter device. It has been heavily documented and also explored on Scientology and the Aftermath.

"We expect the next 'revelations' about Paul Haggis in this campaign to destroy him to be based on information culled from his scientology files in the form of more 'anonymous' accusers, hiding behind a lawyer who will never have to disclose who is paying their bill," Remini and Rinder continued. "Those who accuse without going to law enforcement, those who seek hush money to keep their stories secret, those who make accusations to the media anonymously — they are suspect. And when the target of these tactics is someone who is a prominent critic of scientology, it is very suspect."

Haggis has said that Remini was the only person who didn’t shun him after his Scientology departure, and that she even defended his position to the church. Ahead of his appearance on her A&E series, Haggis told The Hollywood Reporter he was already anticipating the church to respond in some fashion.

“I’m sure they will put out a statement, again, how I’m a liar and what a terrible man I am," Haggis said. "How I do no work in Haiti [under his nonprofit Artists for Peace and Justice] or anything else. They boast all the great work they do in Haiti and how I do it for photo-ops or something. It’s just ludicrous and you don’t have to pay any attention to it.”

Read Remini and Rinder's full letter below:

There is plenty of reason to worry about defending anyone accused of sexual assault in today’s climate. But the fear of consequences for speaking our truth has not held us back in the past and isn’t about to start now.

We have supported victims of sexual abuse who have reached out to us and have worked with them and law enforcement to ensure justice is done for both victims and the accused. We have avoided trial by media.

In this time of heightened awareness of sexual predators, it is easy to remain quiet when an injustice is being perpetrated for fear of being tarred as politically incorrect. But more important to us than being politically correct is standing up for what we believe is right.

Paul Haggis is a good man who has been a friend to us and so many others. He has championed the rights of women, the LGBT community and has fought for and devoted himself to the underprivileged in the world. These are not “PR stunts” — he has devoted his time, skill and money to worthy causes without fanfare for decades.

Like all of us, Paul Haggis is not perfect. Unlike a lot of us, he is truly a gentleman. A gentle man, with impeccable manners and a generous heart.

Like those of us who were scientologists, we trusted and confided in our church to seek resolution for our shortcomings. What is different about scientology is the detailed records they maintain of everything you tell them. And beyond that, they conduct intense interrogations based on the idea that only when all specifics and details are disclosed can one find relief. The names, dates, and minute details of any indiscretions, and even thoughts, are all recorded.

It is not a crime to be attracted to women (or men). It’s not a crime to flirt. Or to have sexual relations with someone. It might not be acceptable to your significant other (if you have one), but it certainly isn’t criminal nor worthy of newspaper headlines.

Only a scientologist can understand the pressure one feels to offer up even the slightest thing that the scientology organization might consider a transgression of THEIR mores. This information is used against anyone who departs scientology and dares speak their mind. This is not imaginary. There is a documented history of such things. When someone is a declared an “enemy” by scientology, they are fair game.

With the name of everyone one might have thought of, flirted with or taken on a date, it takes little imagination to conjure a string of accusers being contacted and suddenly appearing out of the woodwork.

We expect the next “revelations” about Paul Haggis in this campaign to destroy him to be based on information culled from his scientology files in the form of more “anonymous” accusers, hiding behind a lawyer who will never have to disclose who is paying their bill.

Those who accuse without going to law enforcement, those who seek hush money to keep their stories secret, those who make accusations to the media anonymously – they are suspect. And when the target of these tactics is someone who is a prominent critic of scientology, it is very suspect.

Paul Haggis deserves, based on his record as a gentleman and humanitarian, to be judged when all the evidence has been taken under penalty of perjury in a court of law. Because claims of anonymous accusers who have NOT gone to law enforcement are not credible.

Leah Remini

Mike Rinder

In a statement Monday, the Church of Scientology responded to Remini and Rinder's letter. The Church's full response is below: 

Leah Remini, Paul Haggis and Mike Rinder have predictably thrown up a reprehensible smokescreen to turn horrific sexual assault and rape allegations made against Haggis by four women into a bigoted attack about their former religion.

Today’s transparent ploy by Remini and Rinder fails to mention that plaintiff Haleigh Breest’s court papers definitively state that “Ms. Breest has nothing to do with Scientology. Being a critic of Scientology does not give a man permission to rape.” Furthermore, Remini and Rinder conveniently fail to mention that the three additional women making allegations against Haggis all are on record to the Associated Press as stating that they are not Scientologists — as if an alleged rape victim’s religion should matter — and that these allegations have nothing to do with the Church. Not only are Remini and Rinder mouthing a debunked conspiracy theory that was dead on arrival when they posted today’s rant, they further offend countless other alleged victims with stunning insensitivity.

To be clear, the Church has never met the women in this case nor their attorneys and knows nothing about the accusations against Haggis other than what has appeared in press reports and public court documents.