New Yorker Scientology Article Causes Media Frenzy
First Published: February 9, 2011 3:27 PM EST Credit: Getty Images
NEW YORK, N.Y. -- On Monday, The New Yorker unveiled writer Lawrence Wright’s 26-page article centered on Oscar winning screenwriter Paul Haggis’ resignation from the Church of Scientology.
In the 48-hours since the story came out, a host of publications have written about the expose creating a veritable media frenzy around the topic, which centered around the celebrated writer’s decision to depart an organization he described to Wright as a “cult” he was in for 34 years. In the article, Haggis cited the Church’s refusal to condemn Proposition 8, which outlawed gay & lesbian marriage in the state of California (he has two lesbian daughters), as the catalyst for his departure.
Among the article’s claims that attracted the interest of bloggers and reporters included:
- An allegation that Scientology head David Miscavige made some of the church members play musical chairs, to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” kicking out all but the winner of the game, an accusation first made in The St. Petersburg Times. “Church leaders fought over the chairs, punching each other and, in one case, ripping a chair apart,” Wright alleged in his story.
- A claim that Miscavige beat employees including Jefferson Hawkins. “Without any warning, he jumped up onto the conference-room table and he launches himself at me. He knocks me back against a cubicle wall and starts battering my face,” Hawkins claimed to Wright. The church denied the allegations, Wright reported.
- A bizarre account from actor Josh Brolin, who claimed to Wright he saw John Travolta use Scientology on Marlon Brando after “The Godfather” star injured his leg. “I watched this process going on — it was very physical,” Brolin told Wright. “I was thinking, This is really f***ing bizarre! Then, after ten minutes, Brando opens his eyes and says, ‘That really helped. I actually feel different!” A lawyer for Travolta called the story “pure fabrication,” according to Wright’s article.
- A claim by Haggis that after making an off-the-cuff remark to Steven Spielberg on the set of Tom Cruise’s film, “War of the Worlds,” that “Yeah, we keep all the evil ones in a closet,” he was summoned to atone for his comments.
While the media jumped all over Wright’s lengthy piece, the Church of Scientology vehemently defended their organization.
“It is disappointing that a magazine with the reputation of the New Yorker chose to reprint these sensationalist claims from disaffected former members hardly worthy of a tabloid,” Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis said in a statement, according to Britain’s Independent newspaper.
As for Haggis and his decision to leave Scientology that seemed to spark the story, he told Wright he looks back on the time with a raised eye.
“I was in a cult for 34 years. Everyone else could see it. I don’t know why I couldn’t,” he said in the original article.
Haggis also hinted he fears retribution.
“These people have long memories,” he told Wright.. “My bet is that, within two years, you’re going to read something about me in a scandal that looks like it has nothing to do with the church.”
Copyright 2013 by NBC Universal, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.