The Brush-Off: Rush to Judgment, Rush to Press
Rush to Judgment, Rush to Press
>>The Opening Gambit
In the initial May 13 phone call to Tommy Davis, Joe Childs requests interviews with members of the Scientology management team.
Childs lists them off—Guillaume Lesevre, Marc Yager, Mark Ingber, Ray Mithoff and Norman Starkey.
Davis asks, “That’s it?”
To which Childs responds, “Uh-huh.”
That’s by no means, however, the end of the exchange.
In fact, Childs and Tobin repeat the request on 23 occasions. While, in turn, Davis and fellow representatives from the Church offer to facilitate the interviews no less than 48 times.
By the 28th of May, Childs reiterates the request inasmuch as “first-hand” accounts are always invaluable. He is assured by Davis that Lesevre, Yager, Ingber, Starkey and many others with personal knowledge, including the people that supposedly were the subject of the allegations, “definitely want to talk to you and set the record straight.”
>> Tricks of the Trade
Childs is told—and this in no uncertain terms—that Scientology’s management team is actually quite eager to meet. Indeed, they are “outraged” that Childs even entertained the likes of Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder, whom they have long regarded as “beneath contempt.”
To which Childs replies (without acknowledging the outrage) that he and Tobin just as eagerly wish to meet the team.
He then punches home the statement saying: “Our strong preference is to talk to them in person.”
Davis closes with a reassurance that the face-to-face interviews will take place.
There’s a slight change in emphasis through a telephone conversation on June 2 when Childs explains he is willing to take “second-hand” accounts. That is: he will take statements from Norman Starkey or Marc Yager as relayed through Tommy Davis and supply the “he saids” and the “commas,” i.e., “It would be reported in the story: ‘comma Norman Starkey said’ or ‘Marc Yager said.’”
Childs assures Davis that this is a commonly employed “trick of the trade.” Hence the Childs capper: “I’m not being flippant.”
On more than one occasion, Childs and Tobin boasted their story was backed by “first-hand accounts,” i.e., that all interviews are face-to-face with “their folks.” In just those terms, then, the individuals Childs and Tobin had requested to interview now insisted on setting the record straight with their own first-hand accounts presented face-to-face.
There is a subsequent phone call on June 17 in which Childs cryptically tells Davis that if he wishes to respond, he “should do it sooner than later.”
When Davis presses for clarification, Childs simply replies: “We are getting close here.”
Davis makes an appeal that Childs stick to the agreed-upon time frame: “I’m asking really as a matter of good faith on your part and your paper that we be given that opportunity.”
The call concludes, with a Joe Childs statement in emphasis that Childs indeed wishes to interview Mr. Miscavige—a date that is set for July 6. However, Davis arranges schedules to continue providing other interviews and information to Tobin and Childs.
Twenty-four hours later, Childs tells Davis the article is ready to roll and interviews with Scientology’s management team are suddenly superfluous.
Davis is naturally taken aback. Childs remains unmoved and restates that he and Tobin are moving forward, without the interviews they had requested.
But Childs and Tobin well knew those same individuals were insistent upon having the opportunity to speak to the Times. Moreover, Davis emphasizes, “Our documentation has proven your sources to be liars. They change their story when you go back to them with the truth. I think that is more than enough cause to give us the opportunity to now start giving you ‘first-hand reports.’”
The Childs response: “We’re not going to wait.”
In a somewhat shocked reply, Davis cites codes of responsible journalism, then both implores and demands they hear the team’s first-hand accounts. However, Childs has already determined that they are not needed. And what’s more, he says it’s not just his decision, it’s an “organizational decision.”
When informed of the Childs about-face, these executives are nonetheless still insistent on their own “face-to-face” with the reporters. Consequently, and though already scheduled for a Church convention, they immediately redirect flight bookings to Clearwater.
The result is a convergence of Scientology executives who remained sleepless through the night on red-eye flights to speak to Childs and Tobin.
>>The Final Meeting
All comes to a climactic head on the 19th of June.
Assembled in a conference room at the Fort Harrison are Joe Childs, Tom Tobin, Tommy Davis and teammate Jessica Feshbach, along with Church counsel Monique Yingling and William Walsh.
Waiting in the wings to speak to the Times reporters are 19 others who have either just arrived or are still en route via red-eye flights from Los Angeles, New York and Dallas.
The meeting gets underway at 10:20 a.m.
“We’re here today to listen, as we’ve done on parts of three other days. We have an appointment in St. Petersburg at 2:30 that we didn’t want to be presumptive about. We decided, well let’s keep it on the board, keep it in place, come here at 10:00, and begin, rather than just cancel it.”
“We intend to spend the whole day with you, so if that could be rearranged, that would definitely be helpful.”
“What’s the whole day mean to you?”
“The whole day means, we’re on LA time and the whole day ends at midnight LA time.”
After a short break for lunch, Feshbach makes a prefatory comment:
“Just so you know, everyone you’re going to see today hasn’t slept—they’ve been up all night traveling.”
With that, the first from the Tobin-Childs roster of requested interviews begins.
Her name is Jenny Linson. She is a Church management executive, the former wife of Tom DeVocht, and indeed was her ex-husband’s boss.
Among other details provided, she addresses specific allegations, including:
“This violence he says happened in 2004, that he says made him leave—I was there and I never witnessed such a thing. Why would he be saying this? It boils down to bitterness at losing such an exciting life with important projects, a group continually on the cutting edge. He always liked the excitement, he always wanted power and he always wanted more.”
Next up, another of the wives, Ms. Cathy Bernardini. She, too, sets the record straight on claims her ex has made to the Times:
"He is literally rewriting history in his head as to what happened and inverting everything. What he’s saying COB was doing, Marty was doing. He wanted a war and there hasn’t been a war since he left."
“He says something about his lying to the BBC [regarding allegations against the Church]. In 2007, it was March and he found out he needed to go to the UK to meet with the BBC at the time. And he told me, as he’s getting ready to pack, saying he was sick of dealing with these people. He said, ‘Their allegations are outrageous. They are lies.’ The reason it’s so vividly in my mind is that was the last time I saw him.”
Still another former wife of a Times “source,” Ms. Anne Joasem, follows. If she’s the highest-ranking Church executive to speak thus far, she’s also most damning to the Tobin-Childs premise:
“When I hear Marty is saying he was high up in the structure, I am outraged. He was walking in the shadow of greatness.
“He is literally rewriting history in his head as to what happened and inverting everything. What he’s saying COB was doing, Marty was doing. He wanted a war and there hasn’t been a war since he left.
“He thought that with Church expansion there would be attacks and we would need him and he would come back to take care of these things. We didn’t beg for him to come back and it’s booming without him and he can’t stand it.”
The “2:30 appointment” passes without comment. At which point, Childs lays the groundwork for his next “deadline.”
“We appreciate that you have gone through a huge logistical calculation here and the reality is that we wouldn’t get through even another five by now and 7:00!”
“We have all night.”
"He [Marty Rathbun] was walking in the shadow of greatness."
“Well, but we don’t have all night and we have time to read statements that we can’t hear in person.”
“We have gone more than ‘out of our way.’ That is what you requested. You wanted these people.”
“You’re the ones who set the limit on the time and so we brought as many people as we could so that they could try to address the allegations.”
Childs (albeit reluctantly) agrees to continue.
Next to enter is a pivotal character in the apostate allegations: Mr. Norman Starkey, 41-year Sea Organization veteran. He speaks to the reporters for a full 40 minutes:
“There is a statement in Scientology that says: ‘The overt doth speak loudly in accusation.’ And you understand what that basically means—you transgress, you are the first person to blame it on somebody else. And that is very much the case of where [these allegations are] coming from.”
So it continued throughout the afternoon, with a stream of “first-hand” accounts laying bare the false accusations. Further, each interviewee has worked personally and extensively with Mr. Miscavige. They include: long-time Church counsel, Mr. Eric Lieberman; film director, Mr. Mitch Brisker; professional writer, Mr. Christopher Smith; and L. Ron Hubbard Biographer, Mr. Dan Sherman.
With another nine veteran Church executives on deck, Childs stands and announces:
“I have other things that I need to do tonight and this doesn’t twin with it.”
“But how could you…”
“We had a productive series of sessions—the women who are the ex-wives, and so 5:30. It seems to me, let’s go.”
To which he adds: “Put the fax number down here.”
“You wanted first-hand accounts, we have first-hand accounts in this building. Do you want to see them or not?”
“You wait until we tell you there is a short time, and you just dump them on us.”
“Hey, hold on a second. We’re dumping the people you asked to talk to?”
“It was your decision to bring them in here today, and to bring them at the end of the day.”
“I said two hours earlier that we’re leaving at 5:30....Now it’s 5:30 and you walk in and say, ‘We’ve got the trombone section outside.’”
“I had people driving from Orlando off red-eye flights to get here. I had other people having to go via Atlanta, I mean really....”
“So now you want me to stay here till midnight to talk to this group? You know it’s not practical.”
Church representative Monique Yingling:
“Well, I certainly think we could go a little longer. We could meet tomorrow.”
The balance of the originally requested interviewees has now assembled outside the conference room door.
“We’re on our way. We’re on our way.”
“If you guys could just hold on a second, I would really appreciate it.”
Scientology’s management team now actually enters the conference room. Davis makes the introductions:
“Marc Yager, Guillaume Lesevre, Ray Mithoff, Mark Ingber, Greg Wilhere, Angie Blankenship, David Bloomberg, Lyman Spurlock, and Russ Bellin—Joe Childs, Tom Tobin.”
He then turns back to Childs and Tobin:
“So you’re insistent on leaving. I diverted them from the Freewinds, all over the place. Angie had to come in from Dallas. I told them that you were leaving, didn’t want to hear from them and were saying that they should fax their statements to you and they didn’t like that very much. So they said, ‘We want to come down and talk to them right now, that means all of us, before they leave.’ I think each of them has a few things they’d like to say.”
"Our documentation has proven your sources to be liars. They change their story when you go back to them with the truth."
“You all should know that we didn’t create this situation.”
“Did you all get told…that you could phone us any time and give us your account, your statement?”
“Yes, but we said we wanted to see you in person because we were not going to do some brush-off on the phone.”
“Joe, do you want to hear what they have to say or not?”
“It would take all night.”
Forty-one-year Sea Org executive, Mark Ingber:
“We’ll stay all night.”
Thirty-five-year Sea Org veteran and Scientology’s International Executive Director Guillaume Lesevre in unison with fellow executives: “We’re here!”
“Monique, Tommy, can I talk to you in the hallway here?”
“You’re not going to hear us? Unreal! It’s outrageous.”
“What happens now, Joe?”
“Well, we publish our story when we get it ready.”
As he and Tobin make their exit, Childs scowls:
“Goodbye everybody. Goodbye.”
Having shot their wad on the 21st of June 2009, Joe Childs and Tom Tobin attempt to salvage some shred of journalistic credibility by dredging up another motley crew of suddenly “on-the-record” witnesses. Among them are three defrocked Scientologists who now picket Churches with Internet terrorists, a bankrupt taxi driver and the webmaster for the site where Marty Rathbun posts his delusory diatribes about taking over the Church and his fundamental disagreements with Mr. Hubbard’s writings. Moreover, virtually all of the allegations come from the “grassy knoll” of the Internet, notorious anti-Scientology websites and “witnesses” who post under pseudonyms.
But for the real revelation of just how low the S.P. Times will stoop to resurrect a dead-beat story, one need only consider the latest Childs-Tobin letter to Tommy Davis. It is dated July 22, 2009, or better than a month after Childs and Tobin cancelled interviews with Mr. David Miscavige and senior Church executives. It regurgitates the same old allegations of abuse with alleged victims including: Guillaume Lesevre, Marc Yager, Ray Mithoff and Greg Wilhere.
Once again, Childs and Tobin are asking for testimony from the very same senior Church executives they had previously refused to hear.
To which one can only conclude: Childs, Tobin and the S.P. Times truly have no scruples.