Feature Story: Merchants of Chaos
Merchants of Chaos
Journalistic Double-dealing at the St. Petersburg Times
What is described as the Scientology religion's Global Bridge to Freedom is now manifest in some 8,000 Scientology Churches, Missions and groups across 165 nations. Moreover, and even as of this writing, some 70 new Churches are on the rise across Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.
The point: That phrase "Global Bridge" has never held greater meaning inasmuch as Scientology is presently growing at historically unprecedented rates—expanding more in the last 12 months than in the previous five years combined, and more again in the last five years than in all five previous decades.
The Scientology religion is also enjoying unprecedented worldwide popularity. In but the last four years, readers have picked up better than 80 million Dianetics and Scientology books and lectures—60 million in just the last two years alone. Accordingly, Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard is now recognized in the Guinness Book of Records as the most published and translated author in history, with titles in 71 languages.
But nowhere is the size and scope of Scientology more evident than at its religious Mecca in Clearwater, Florida. Indeed, Church premises in Clearwater now comprise over 1.7 million square feet with still another 385,000 under construction.
The point here: While one may rightly cite new Church building projects in Brussels, Rome, Tel Aviv and Washington, DC, for an immediate sense of 21st century Scientology expansion, all one need do is gaze from the door of the S.P. Times Clearwater Bureau.
In that sense, then, this is a story of the S.P. Times looking through the wrong end of a telescope and reporting it as news.
May 13, 2009:
Mr. Tommy Davis from the International Church of Scientology receives a telephone call from S.P. Times reporter/editor Joe Childs.
In fact, Childs is the senior editor who, in tandem with staff writer Tom Tobin, had profiled Scientology leader Mr. David Miscavige in 1998 [See David Miscavige: The Peacemaker.]
Just eight weeks earlier, Childs had additionally toured the recently renovated and opened Fort Harrison Religious Retreat at the Scientology Mecca in Clearwater. Indeed, it was none other than Mr. Miscavige who suggested Childs be among the first to see the elegantly rebuilt landmark. Accordingly, Davis and colleague Jessica Feshbach toured Childs through the facility on the 19th of March. Given Childs claimed he was intending to author a piece on the Fort Harrison's grand reopening, he was further afforded an inside look at Church expansion plans, in both Clearwater and abroad.
Primary point: As of May 13, 2009, Joe Childs knew exactly what Mr. Miscavige had brought to the Church of Scientology and, by extension, to many millions world over.
Secondary point: Within 24 hours of his Fort Harrison tour, Childs informed Davis that another reporter would take over the story and cover the grand reopening...for reasons not explained until now.
The call begins with cordial formalities, after which Childs gets to the point: "We're calling to make a formal request to interview David Miscavige."
He then goes on to explain that he and Tom Tobin had recently interviewed some former Church staff who were now ex-Scientologists and they had given "first-hand accounts" of their alleged experiences with Mr. Miscavige. Childs further explained that he and Tobin had reached the point where they felt it was "appropriate" to give Mr. Miscavige an "opportunity" to respond to the allegations of "these folks. "
That Childs refers to his sources as "folks" is significant. He would also later describe them as "our people." He names four in all.
Source #1: Mark "Marty" Rathbun is the "Kingpin" of the Tobin-Childs story. Formerly an external legal affairs officer, he was removed from post in December 2001 for repeated catastrophes he admits were of his own creation, resulting in tens of millions of dollars of wasted parishioner funds. He was dismissed entirely from the organization he served in December 2003. Shortly thereafter he deserted.
Source #2: Tom DeVocht is the incorrigible "Con Man." He formerly served as a Church construction manager, a position from which he was removed in March 2005 for gross overspends and mismanagement. Two months later he, too, deserted.
Source #3: Amy Scobee, the "Adulteress," likewise proved herself a hopelessly incompetent manager and failed at five positions through the course of her checkered career. In her repeat adultery she violated fundamental rules of the Scientology religious order. She was finally removed from any position of authority in 2002. When she failed to curb her wanton sexual behavior, she was expelled from the Scientology religion.
Source #4: Mike Rinder is what Childs describes as the "Fact-Checker" inasmuch as he initially refused to go on record, and merely "fact-checks" tales from the others. He was also an external legal affairs officer and, in fact, worked with Marty Rathbun for the better part of three decades. He was demoted from executive authority in 2002 and latterly banned from posting in Management in Los Angeles. While serving in England, given numerous options to choose from for re-posting, Rinder likewise deserted.
Davis bluntly asks if Childs was already working on this story when they had met at the Fort Harrison eight weeks earlier in March.
To which Childs responds: "Yes and no."
That Childs and Tobin deliberately sought out and cultivated these people casts an even murkier light on the makings of this story. For the fact is, Mr. Miscavige had personally removed three of the four from power. (Only Scobee was removed by her peers.) Hence, resentment and revenge were clearly in play.
Now couple that with the fact both Childs and Tobin had been working on their story in utter secrecy for 13 weeks before contacting the Church, and here were all the elements of a hatchet job.
Although all Childs says at this juncture is that the Times had "located each one of these folks independently" and "interviewed them independently." Without prompting, he then defensively adds that he didn't believe they conversed among themselves.
But Davis knew those folks did, in fact, do a lot of conversing with the lunatic fringe on the Internet's conspiratorial "grassy knoll." What Davis was soon to discover is that they also did a lot of conversing with Childs and Tobin—particularly when the reporters proved receptive to any tale, no matter how far-fetched, that would disparage Mr. Miscavige and the Church. But the long and short of such embittered ramblings were five paramount lies:
Lie #1: That the Church was collapsing.
Lie #2: That the Scriptures of Dianetics and Scientology were being misinterpreted.
Lie #3: That all four sources had left Scientology in protest to "injustices" and "abuses."
Lie #4: That Rathbun wanted peace while Mr. Miscavige wanted war.
Lie #5: That Mr. Miscavige had abused them and others.
> > The True Facts
Fact #1: Now, of course, given what Childs himself had seen through his tour of the Fort Harrison, the first allegation—that the Church was collapsing—was plainly untrue.
Indeed, as even Childs remarked through that first telephone call on May 13, "We know the growth the Church has achieved under Mr. Miscavige's era." He then went on to explain how he knew the Church had been "repurposed," "redefined," had become "more open," "more engaged" and "more accepted." To which he concluded: "It's not peeping into the mainstream. It is in mainstream America."
Fact #2: The second allegation (that Church Scriptures were being misinterpreted) was just as patently untrue—and particularly inasmuch as the policies supposedly misinterpreted were the very same policies applied to remove the Tobin-Childs sources. These are the ecclesiastical ethics and justice policies that mandate removal of individuals for precisely the kinds of crimes the S.P. Times sources committed.
Fact #3: The third allegation (that the sources left in protest) is actually an indictment of the S.P. Times journalistic process. For if Childs and Tobin had only asked their people to describe the circumstances of their departure from the Church, the reporters would have learned that none had left in protest. Rather, they were removed for ecclesiastical crimes, then walked away when they found themselves stripped of authority.
Fact #4: The fourth allegation (that Rathbun wanted peace and Mr. Miscavige wanted war) is, in fact, an indictment of Rathbun's own sanity. For here was a self-avowed "warrior" who loved nothing more than a legal fracas. By contrast, after famously declaring the "War is Over" in 1993, Mr. Miscavige diligently worked to extricate the Church from all conflicts. While even more to the point, most if not all such conflicts were actually created by Rathbun himself [See The Chronicles of Betrayal .] The case in point is that Rathbun originally deserted in 1993 because the war was over, an untold secret that he would capitalize on to cause even more catastrophes beginning in 1995.
Fact #5: All of which left Childs and Tobin with only those allegations of abuse. But this is where the plot really thickens, because there were indeed isolated instances of abuse—but all of them were perpetrated by the very same people making those allegations, specifically, a deeply frustrated Rathbun who had lost his power, and his criminal cohort, Tom DeVocht.
By way of clue as to how Childs planned to morph those allegations into his story, he further now asks for interviews with various key Church executives. In particular: Guillaume Lesevre, Marc Yager, Mark Ingber, Ray Mithoff and Norman Starkey.
The point here: These are members of the Scientology management team who were also allegedly "victims" of abuse, and Childs is hoping to snare them into some sort of corroboration of his sources' claims.
Rathbun and Rinder thought they could make up anything they wanted about these individuals being “victims,” assuming they would never speak to media to deny the false allegations, simply because these executives, with ecclesiastical duties far removed from external affairs, had never spoken to media in the past. Rathbun and Rinder were sorely mistaken.
But at the center of all Childs hints at through that first May 13 conversation was, of course, Mr. Miscavige himself. Hence the shadowboxing exchange wherein Davis attempts to at least define a few parameters: "What's this piece about? Is it about Mr. Miscavige or about the Church?"
As Davis explains, if it is about Mr. Miscavige, it is about the Church by extension, because one can't do a piece about the man without it being about the Church. And from that standpoint, he tells Childs that his sources have no idea what is happening in the Church, considering how long they have been gone: "There's a lot that has happened since they left."
But all Childs says in reply is that the Church deserves a "succinct account" of the allegations.
Still, Davis presses. Because what's foremost on his mind and what will continue to shadow every conversation from here on out is the Childs suggestion that his sources have a legitimate view of Mr. Miscavige and the Church of Scientology, even though they've seen neither in years: "You sought those people out and now you're listening to them griping to the exclusion of all else that is Scientology today."
Childs remains noncommittal and evasive. Davis then bluntly asks if Childs was already working on this story when they had met at the Fort Harrison eight weeks earlier in March. To which Childs responds: "Yes and no."
And therein lay another facet of this story—what Davis termed the "whipsaw effect" for the fact Childs continually vacillated from one contradictory statement to another.
By way of another example: When Davis emphasizes the need for a face-to-face meeting preliminary to a David Miscavige interview, Childs responds: "I don't know if we need to sit down."
In doublespeak, Childs next explains how the article is "not about the Church, per se," while in the same breath telling how it's about "the direction Mr. Miscavige has taken the Church."
As Davis keeps probing about the inherent contradiction, Childs promises to explain: "But not on the telephone."
Nevertheless, the conversation concludes with a first crucial date in a Tobin-Childs timetable. It is a timetable that would repeatedly whipsaw back and forth for no apparent reason. Yet as of this opening gambit, Childs states he cannot possibly meet sooner than the 26th of May "due to personal obligations." It's a date which is a full two weeks away. Hence he closes the conversation of May 13 with a formal request for an interview, significantly adding: "We are available any time after the 26th."
The implicit point here: There is no great urgency for the Church to respond, as Joe Childs is in no rush to publish a story on the Church of Scientology... and certainly not without first interviewing Mr. David Miscavige.
May 18, 2009:
The second telltale conversation dates from the 18th of May and brings Tom Tobin into the game. Three business days have now passed since the initial overture from Childs, and Davis is calling back to confirm a meeting date. Given Childs is unavailable, Tobin takes the call and Davis gets right to it. He was looking at the 27th or the 28th in Clearwater, and specifically at the Fort Harrison. He then explicitly adds, "Joe Childs said we could sit down and he'd give us an executive summary of what had gone down." There is still no sense of urgency and Tobin responds with a casual, "Sounds fine to me." He then promises to call Davis back. Yet that easygoing attitude would soon prove short-lived.
> > The Switch-Up
May 19, 2009:
Only 24 hours have passed since Davis was told to expect a call in confirmation of a meeting on or shortly after May 26. Said meeting would be the first sit-down with the S.P. Times and a first opportunity to examine their promised "summary" of allegations. Then without warning, without explanation, Tom Tobin telephones with the "switch-up."
He begins by reiterating how they spoke the previous day about the Times giving Davis their summary at the proposed meeting. But suddenly Tobin changes course, telling Davis he will send the summary immediately by email. While by way of an explanation, he ominously explains: "When we meet, it will be the last time we could accept a response before publication.
The none-too-subtle insinuation: All Tobin and Childs want are quick denials to allegations so they might present a veneer of "balance" vis-à-vis sanctioned codes of journalistic ethics [See Journalism 101 .]
Davis is now openly irate and tells Tobin, "There's no way it is going to go down like this."
He then goes on to explain how Childs and Tobin have spent more than two months listening to allegations about Mr. Miscavige by disgruntled ex-Scientologists, who he himself removed years ago , and that if the Times wants to know about Mr. Miscavige, the leader of the Scientology religion, they need to find out what's happening in the Church today . And that's not going to happen in one day: "There's just no way."
To underscore the statement, Davis then provides Tobin with some sense of Mr. Miscavige's schedule—that he's preparing for one of the most significant religious events of the year: the OT Summit . It is annually attended by leading Scientologists from around the world and relayed to parishioners from over 8,000 Scientology Churches, Missions and groups planet wide. In that regard it serves as a crucial venue for briefing Scientologists on Church expansion strategies.
Davis further explains that Mr. Miscavige's commitments include his personal presentation of nine hours of events. Moreover, included in those events would be the most monumental advance in the history of Dianetics. While if only to punch it home: "It's something he's been personally working on for four years."
If Tobin's reply is measured, it's as close to the heart of this story as it gets. Because what Tobin next tells Davis is that the leaders in "my shop" are adamant about proceeding on an imminent timetable. To which he concludes: "We want it to be on our timetable."
Davis is dismayed and asks why Childs had said he wanted to give the Church "plenty of time to respond."
Tobin is immovable, responding: "We think it is plenty of time."
Davis is incredulous, once more reiterating that Tobin and Childs "have been working on this for months and there's a lot of information you don't have."
But Tobin refuses to waver, telling Davis: "Just because we took some time to develop the information doesn't mean it is going to take an equal amount of time to answer."
At which point he adds with some emphasis that he's not interested in the Church's information. He only wants responses to allegations: ' "Did this happen or not?" '
In fact, however, it wasn't at all a matter of: "Did this happen or not?" It was a matter of: Something else happened.
> > The Clincher
The telltale email cited by Tobin through the course of conversation landed with Davis six minutes later. The decisive passage read:
"As we discussed a few minutes ago, the S.P. Times is seeking an interview with David Miscavige and the other Scientology staff members.... Your proposed meeting on May 27 or 28 at the Fort Harrison Hotel would be the very last time we could accept a response before publication."
It wasn't a matter of "it happened or it didn't," it was a matter of "or something else happened." And that is what Davis intends on revealing, promising Childs, "I will light your hair on fire. "
Additionally included is a mishmash of details concerning all other allegations—a scant fragment here, another there. The email then perfunctorily closes with:
"We are providing this information today so you will have ample time to review it."
Although by "ample time," the S.P. Times meant giving the Church only five business days to respond.
> > The Back-Pedal
May 20, 2009:
Davis is now joined in his West Coast office by Church counsel Monique Yingling. She has represented Scientology interests for nearly three decades. Moreover, she is intimately familiar with the failings of Rathbun and Rinder—their consistent incompetence, their repeated bungling in the legal sphere and their trail of botched cases she was forever called upon to clean up.
On the desk is that Tobin-Childs "executive summary" of allegations emailed 24 hours earlier. That such allegations held no relevance to Clearwater residents and were actually just recycled from stale Internet postings is another wrinkle in this story. For here were two supposedly mainstream reporters presenting tales from a lunatic fringe and fobbing it off as explosive and timely news for their readers—strictly National Enquirer standards.
Accordingly, and expressly in reply to the Childs-Tobin ultimatum, Davis and Yingling telephone Clearwater. They catch Childs at 5 p.m.
Davis launches the opening salvo, recapping how Childs had approached the Church with a request for a meeting where the Church would hear out an executive summary and how, all of a sudden, everything changed: "Here's the email, and next week's your only chance before we go to publication." Davis further reiterates that definitely wasn't the agreed-upon plan and bluntly tells Childs, "All of a sudden it's bait and switch."
He further reminds Childs that he is talking about the leader of a religion, and somebody beloved by millions. "You know what he's like. You've spent days with him. He's the one who gave you full, unfettered access to the Church. You can't disagree with me that he deserves more than this."
Yingling speaks next, telling Childs in no uncertain terms that there is a willingness to respond and to cooperate, but that it's outrageous the Times would ask for it to happen in one day. After all, she reminds Childs, he had been working on his story since February. "It doesn't add up at all—unless you have your story and you're just looking for a denial."
To which she adds on a personal note, "I was there, I know these guys. I know what happened." She further tells them, "You have been sold a bill of goods." In emphasis, she then explains that what the Times has heard from their folks is not "their version" of a story, "it's just a story that never happened." She concludes by telling them that there is a story and the Church is more than willing to tell it, but it cannot possibly be done in one day.
Childs, however, remains steadfast and insists the Church may only have one day , either the 27th or 28th of May, as first dictated by the Times in their email of the previous day.
Yingling insists that a single day is not possibly sufficient for the Church to respond. She suggests they start next week and go from there.
But Childs stonewalls with another ultimatum: "I'm not willing to give more days unless there's a justification for it."
Yingling stays to a steady course, once again affirming a willingness to sit down and talk. In fact, she tells Childs that in addition to speaking to Mr. Miscavige, there are also a number of other people he should speak to as well.
Yingling's implicit point: Childs and Tobin should avail themselves of first-hand reports from inside the Church.
Whereupon she adds: "We're not just saying these allegations are false, we can prove it to you."
There's another Tobin-Childs switch-up at this juncture, and it tracks out as follows: The reporters have previously requested interviews with Church management personnel; they have confirmed that request in their email. But now Childs announces, "I don't know that we are going to be wanting to interview those people."
Davis responds with a mixture of shock and outrage. To which Childs answers, "I don't want to wait."
Davis, utterly furious, returns to the central issue—specifically, Tobin's statement that "It either happened or it didn't." To which Davis now repeats that it wasn't a matter of "it happened or it didn't," it was a matter of "or something else happened." And that, Davis states, is what he intends on revealing, promising Childs, "I will light your hair on fire. "
Childs repeats the phrase, "Light our hair on fire?" At which point he tells Davis that he'd better come through. Otherwise, Childs and Tobin would "just keep to the timetable we're looking at."
But that's when Davis pops the whole premise of the Tobin-Childs timetable: "Joe, don't come to me about the leader of our religion, especially with allegations that are this disgusting, then top it off by putting me under that kind of pressure with that kind of window—not when you've already been on this for 13 weeks ."
Childs dances: "I haven't been on it for 13 weeks ."
Lie—and Davis nails it: "You have been talking to your sources since late February."
Childs knows he's been caught out and giggles: "We'll need to see something that lights our hair on fire."
> > The First Meeting
May 28, 2009:
It is estimated Childs and Tobin have devoted some 500 hours to their sources since first contact. They have interviewed Rathbun in Texas, Rinder in Colorado and crisscrossed Florida to catch DeVocht and Scobee.
But now they sit at a rosewood and mahogany conference table in the Colonial Boardroom of Scientology's Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater. Facing them are Yingling, Davis and Feshbach. Also present is Bill Walsh—the longest-serving Church counsel and internationally renowned human rights attorney. As with Yingling, Walsh previously tidied up messes left by Rathbun and Rinder. He was further tasked with mopping up in the wake of their removals and eventual departures.
In the eight days since Yingling and Davis set this meeting, the four Church representatives had compiled a minutely documented brief on S.P. Times sources. It is ten o'clock in the morning EST.
All commences with what amounts to a Joe Childs statement of record. In particular, he's attempting to justify violations of a fundamental journalistic tenet, i.e., Article VI, American Society of Newspaper Editors' Principles, which holds that "persons publicly accused" be afforded "the earliest opportunity to respond." He's also trying to whitewash obvious S.P. Times bias, which is another journalistic code violation:
"It probably was two weeks ago that I called Tommy and requested a formal interview with Mr. Miscavige, whom Tom and I know…. We came to recognize in the late 90's that he [has] a remarkable personal and professional story. And we sought to tell that story in 1998, and that remains our belief today.
"And so this year, we sought to see if we could find Rathbun. He talked to us and he said some things that were deeply interesting.
"Rathbun told us about some people who had left the Church. So we found Tom DeVocht and after some consideration, he also spoke with us. Then we found Mike Rinder who we met with and spoke with, but he declined to be interviewed. And then we found Amy Scobee and she, like these others, is not on that grassy knoll that fires stuff onto the Internet—in our view."
Davis, Yingling and Walsh have thus far listened tolerantly. But Childs' claim that Scobee is Internet-clean is more than they can bear. In fact, Scobee has fired more than 300 virulent postings across Internet fringe sites since early 2006. Rathbun also posts online—generally long and rambling diatribes on messianic plans to stage a coup and usurp Church leadership.
With all this in mind, Yingling tells Childs:
"You have not looked very closely at the Internet, I have to say. She is all over the Internet."
Childs tries to parry it:
"Well, a lot of us are on the Internet, Monique, whether you're on the grassy knoll part of it or not is, you know.... But anyway, we talked to her and she seemed transparent to us, and so that's where we are today."
"They're bitter. They've got an ax to grind and I would hope that you could at least acknowledge that..."
Joe Childs: "We do."
Yet Yingling is back to the heart of the matter—and relentlessly so:
"That you would talk to these people without asking the Church why they left and the circumstances surrounding that, and listen to their accusations and their vitriol, then come to us three months later asking for a response ... I can convey my own personal outrage, particularly given the access that you were given to Mr. Miscavige [in 1998]. Your interview with him is the only one he's given in the time period since then till now."
Childs after composing himself, then says:
"Let me ask you what seems to be the primary question. Are we going to see David Miscavige today?"
To which Yingling immediately replies:
"Today, no. But you will see him—yes. As I told you on the phone, he is willing to talk to you and he will be interviewed, yes ."
Davis reinforces it:
"Despite anything, we are very interested in cooperating very much along the lines of what you experienced 11 years ago."
Tobin now enters the fray, and he is disturbingly condescending:
"The way we went about this is the way I think that any journalist would... I don't think we've done anything untoward. I mean, this is Journalism 101. You talk to the person, and then you get the response."
But Yingling knows the game and unleashes another salvo—albeit in typically measured terms:
"Well, I think this may not be Journalism 101...."
To which Davis adds in equally measured terms:
"These are embittered guys. They used to run with the big dogs in the tall grass and now they're out there and they're doing whatever they are doing. They're bitter. They've got an ax to grind and I would hope that you could at least acknowledge that there is an ax to grind."
Childs exchanges a glance with Tobin, then nods:
But Yingling isn't finished:
"They left because they were removed from post, demoted and they couldn't handle it. And now they're attacking the one individual who's responsible for what's really happening to the Church."
Whereupon she pauses for emphasis, then locks onto Childs and delivers:
"I have never seen such expansion and growth in the Church. And guess what? It's date-coincident with when those guys left. So that's the story: The Church has grown more in the last five years since Rathbun left than it has in its entire history."
At which point Davis drives it home:
"And all of this is juxtaposed against a guy who likes to go fishing in South Texas, a guy who sells Toyotas in Denver, a guy who does who-knows-what in Florida and a woman who refurbishes furniture in Seattle."
All of which then effectively clears the ground for this—Davis again:
"All these people you are asking about, including your source Mike Rinder, by report and with witnesses on every single occasion, all of them were either slapped, punched, kicked, choked, grabbed by the neck, thrown to the floor or tackled into furniture by none other than Marty Rathbun. Every single one of them."
"So you just have to change the names."
Davis then cites a first document—two pages, by DeVocht. It reads in part:
"Marty Rathbun and I were beating people up. I broke someone's ribs and beat him up. The guy got freaked out and then Marty piled on. There were others who got jumped on. Mike got beaten up by Marty and me."
There was more. Because whether some twisted form of "battered wife syndrome" or another sort of anomaly all together, Rathbun and Rinder forged a bond. Hence this from Rinder himself:
"I emulated Marty in many instances. I thought he was the person I should act like and I did. I became a clone of him, but totally subservient to him in all respects. I never disagreed with him on anything and was in tacit agreement with him that anything he did or said was okay."
There's another ominous silence. Davis lets it settle, then explains that Rinder was, in fact, Rathbun's primary punching bag—which makes their present relationship all the more kinky. Be that as it may, he then adds:
"The most famous incident came in January 2004 when inexplicably, out of nowhere, no forewarning, Marty Rathbun leapt onto Mike Rinder, tackled him to the ground, straddled him at the chest, grabbed him at the throat, choked him while banging his head into the floor, screaming at him, asking him a question repeatedly to the point that he was turning purple and requiring him to be peeled off by five grown men, none of whom is shorter than 6 feet tall, some of whom are as much as 6 foot 4."
And were that not enough, Davis continues:
"Shortly thereafter another gentleman saw Marty walking by muttering something about Mike. He thought it was kind of strange. He followed Marty. At which point Marty found Mike again, threw him to the ground, punched him repeatedly. This individual pulled Marty off Mike and Mike stood up again. But if that weren't enough, Marty was winding up to punch Mike again—in the kidneys this time. So this individual threw his arms around Mike, because he thought Marty was going to punch him in the kidneys. Marty's blow connected with his titanium watch, because his arms were wrapped around Mike and the blow snapped the watch-strap in half. At which point, he pulled Mike away, who was bleeding from his ear and had contusions around his head and took him off to get medical attention.
"That was the last time Marty Rathbun saw Mike Rinder in the Sea Org (the Church religious order) ."
When Tobin is either unsettled or shocked, he ceases taking notes and casts a questioning glance at Childs. He was doing that now, but Childs had no answer to the question of the moment—namely:
If Mike Rinder had left the Church in protest of abuse, then why the hell was he running with the very same man who abused him?
But Yingling adds—and this is eye to eye with Childs:
"Did he [Marty] tell you about beating up Mike?"
Tobin goes on the defense:
"Yes [he said] they had their moments."
Where just earlier Childs had stated:
"They were friends for 20 years. They remained friends."
To which Davis laughs, so do Yingling and Walsh. But Feshbach is unsmiling when she asks:
"How do you define friends?"
Childs well knows the joke's on him but he can't think of anything else to say except:
"How do I define friends? Supportive."
Tobin making a lame attempt at any defense:
"Well, I mean Marty said to us all through this, 'I have my transgressions, I've attacked people as well.'"
And that's when Walsh cuts in with his closer:
"That's an understatement."
"You can't do a piece on Mr. Miscavige without understanding where the Church is at."
> > Two Lies Don't Make the Truth
There's a somewhat tangential conversation at this juncture, but it's crucial. It concerns a now observable phenomenon that Childs and Tobin increasingly cling to their story as contrary evidence continues to mount. In this case, that Rathbun and Rinder, when previously serving as "PR flacks" for the Church, had denied the very allegations they were now alleging. Thus, Childs' subtle defense and justification—it's all the more evident now that his people were obviously lying through their teeth.
"Marty and Mike were leading the pack in denying those allegations [of abuse] when they were interviewed by you [for the 1998 S.P. Times David Miscavige profile] and you actually quoted Marty denying those allegations and we can assure you Mike has been all over the media worldwide denying those allegations.... They must have been lying once. Were they lying then or are they lying now? But they couldn't have been telling the truth both times when they have said exactly the opposite."
Childs knows where this is going, but he has no choice but to agree:
"That's right, they couldn't have been telling the truth."
Walsh, because he wants it on the record:
"So they're either lying then or they're lying now."
Yingling, because she wants it hammered on the wall that Rinder vehemently denied allegations of abuse when interviewed by the BBC in April 2007:
"Rinder denied these allegations on camera. There's statement after statement. There are also statements [of denial] in your article."
Childs is momentarily dazed:
"By Marty? You know, Marty told us, he said, 'You know, I lied to you about that.' Because we hit him with it right off the bat."
But Yingling is immediately on it:
"Of course, he has to say that. Otherwise he's lying now. That's clear."
And Yingling has another cogent point to make—perhaps the most damning of all:
"Mike has actually made declarations in court under penalty of perjury, saying that these allegations of many kinds of physical violence are absurd and rubbish as well."
Whereupon Childs can only manage a mumbled:
There's more, because it's also at this conversational turn that Scobee comes to the fore. At issue were the circumstances of her removal from executive echelons of Church management. Davis has already documented her improprieties and lapse of fiduciary duty—to which Childs and Tobin nodded sanctimoniously.
But now Davis presses the point further, inquiring:
"Did she share with you her reason why [she left]?"
Childs nods again, this time perfunctorily:
But Davis won't let loose:
"For having an affair?"
"She said there were allegations that she had an affair, [which] she said [were] not true. She said she never had any contact outside of her husband."
"That's a lie."
Childs—with a hint of exasperation as if to suggest Davis is splitting hairs:
"She did bring up with us a pre-marital affair she had as a teenager here at Flag."
There's another meaningful pause, then Davis explains the Church would prefer not to air dirty laundry. But inasmuch as Scobee is now flatly lying—Feshbach tells all:
"She has a written admission [of] each one of her instances of extramarital indiscretions... I believe there were five."
After which the reporters have a difficult time disguising their dismay—not about the sexual indiscretions, but the fact their own source was lying to them.
> > First-hand Accounts
There's another critical turn at this point in the conversation, and it follows from the fact Childs and Tobin still maintain that, regardless of previous statements to the contrary, their sources are now presenting "first-hand accounts" of what they personally observed.
Very well, Yingling and company reply, then let all concerned hear from those with another set of first-hand accounts—very much including the former wives of Rathbun, DeVocht and Rinder. For if this is "Journalism 101," then surely the S.P. Times must at least entertain the first-hand accounts of more than four now highly questionable sources.
To which Childs incredibly replies:
"Well, it's our interest to talk to those individuals. It is not essential that we talk to them prior to publication."
Yingling remains outwardly calm:
"That is very worrisome. You say you want first-hand accounts?"
When Childs doesn't answer, Davis reiterates it:
"You just said that you don't consider it necessary in finalizing the story to talk to the people that your [sources are] claiming were attacked."
In a rare moment of insight, Tobin now sees where this discussion is headed:
"So, what's your theory of the case? That [our] three people have overactive imaginations or just invented all these things out of whole cloth?"
Yingling has been waiting for this one:
"They know there is nothing else out there that can be used to try to attack David Miscavige. There is no other lie that they can use to attack him. So they picked up the age-old lie, and all of these allegations you can find on the Internet.... But guess what? You know, some of them were beat up... You know by who? Marty Rathbun."
> > Hear No Scientologist, See No Scientology
As Childs and Tobin cannot possibly report on Mr. David Miscavige without some sense of where he has led Scientology, the discussion takes another turn yet again.
Davis has remarked that since he and Childs last met in March, Mr. Miscavige had been establishing—right down to adjusting designs, layout and functionality—three new Churches of Scientology. The feat was all the more remarkable inasmuch as construction had only begun in January; while by the end of April Mr. Miscavige not only completed the combined 133,000 square feet of renovations, he had also crisscrossed the globe to open those Churches. They now stand in Malmö, Sweden; Dallas, Texas; and Nashville, Tennessee.
And that was just the beginning, Davis emphasized, because Mr. Miscavige had additionally overseen the purchase of 70 new Church premises—nearly 500,000 square feet of which were presently under construction. Add to that a doubling in size of Church inhouse digital publishing facilities for global dissemination of L. Ron Hubbard's books and lectures—and there is a snapshot of how the Chairman of the Board spends his days.
So it is that Davis now invites Childs and Tobin to tour the world of Mr. Miscavige and thereby gain their own "first-hand accounts" of what he has brought to fruition with L. Ron Hubbard's technology. In particular, Davis asks them to take advantage of Mr. Miscavige's "full access" invitation and examine for themselves those new Ideal Churches of Scientology in Nashville and Dallas. He further invites them to spend a day aboard the newly refit Freewinds and otherwise consider the face of Scientology. For how else can they presume to intelligently interview the man?
Or as Davis actually phrases it:
"You don't have any clue as to what's happening within the Church right now. And you can't do a piece on Mr. Miscavige without understanding where the Church is at."
Childs shakes his head:
"We're not going to go."
"Well, I'd like to take you to the Freewinds . I'd like you to see places like Nashville or Dallas."
Childs—with an angry edge:
Davis—still persisting if only because he cannot believe what he's hearing:
"I definitely want to see you out in LA at Bridge Publications. And it isn't just the physical locations, it's the people in those locations—people who work with Mr. Miscavige."
But Childs again shakes his head:
"You can educate us on this without us traveling around."
Davis cuts him off:
"Well, you went to Denver, Seattle and Texas, didn't you?" Tobin begins to mouth a reply, which is what he does when searching for words. But all he finally says is:
Davis is on him in an instant:
"No? Where did you meet with Amy Scobee?"
Childs tries to cover:
"Here, when she came to visit some relatives."
Davis—knowing the reporters are still lying in substance:
"And you went to Texas to see Marty?"
Childs is cornered:
So Davis presses it home:
"And you went to Denver to see Mike?"
Childs with a note of resignation:
Davis—satisfied he's made his point:
But Childs still remains unyielding:
"We'll come to LA." (Meaning he would interview Mr. Miscavige in Los Angeles, but nothing else.)
> > The Critical Date
Notwithstanding the previous exchange, there's now a subtle but interesting shift in the Tobin-Childs demeanor. Childs in particular concedes that Church revelations concerning his sources have left him uneasy, and suggests that perhaps his timetable might not be as rigid as previously represented.
As a matter of fact, all he now wants to know is when could he sit down with Mr. Miscavige?
Walsh fields the question without hesitation:
"Mr. Miscavige has agreed to meet with you and go over everything, total access. And that would be a significant, newsworthy event."
Childs—also with no hesitation:
"What's the date?"
Davis—as if to put it in stone:
Childs—and he's now visibly excited:
"As I said, 'there is critical and there is critical' and Mr. Miscavige is the critical one, and you have said he will talk to us."
Childs again, now outright buoyantly:
"I did not come into this building and expect to leave with that sentence in my pocket."
To which he adds in direct contradiction to all earlier statements of urgency:
"We'll carry the date back to our camp and talk about it. We'd be thrilled to interview him."
There's more, because only moments thereafter Childs is further conceding:
Joe Childs: "As I said, 'there is critical and there is critical' and Mr. Miscavige is the critical one, and you have said he will talk to us."
"We need to go back to these people, with statements that we have heard today. We need to say to Marty, 'There is this allegation. What about these instances?' You know that account you read, can you just give it to us? With the five guys pulling him off Rinder. We need to ask him about that."
"That's the kind of thing we need to go back to our people about."
He likewise vows to question Scobee regarding the extramarital relationships.
While in summation:
"We got a lot of work done today from this side of the table. We are going to need to talk. We will review our notes. We will review our thinking and I will have to call back."
> > Switch-Up, Switch-Down
June 2, 2009:
Three business days have passed since the meeting on May 28, and Childs now telephones with a cordial follow-up to a Davis and Yingling offer to supply documents cited in the meeting of May 28.
Childs proceeds to list what he refers to as the "primary documents of interest."
- Internet posts attributed to Rathbun that speak of planning an overthrow.
- Rathbun being busted and demoted.
- Rathbun engaging in a reign of terror.
- Documents in Rathbun's own handwriting.
- DeVocht's admissions of gross negligence.
- The declaration by Scobee.
Childs additionally inquires after Scobee's sexual misconduct and extramarital affairs. He specifically wants to know, "how many?" The point being: Scobee had not told Childs about her sexual relations with an individual she was reportedly counseling—a breach which had led to her dismissal from Church staff. "We only knew of one when she was a teenager at 17."
When Davis assures Childs the documents are forthcoming, Childs lodges another request to speak to the ex-wives of Rathbun, DeVocht and Rinder.
To which Davis again replies without hesitation: "They definitely want to talk to you."
All of which returns Childs to what's obviously foremost on his mind—the July 6 interview with Mr. David Miscavige. As he tells Davis, "We know you guys have a date on the calendar and we appreciate that."
Childs further inquires whether July 6 is the only date available. Davis reiterates, "No earlier than that. That's right."
And so it was "the switch-up" became a "switch-down." Because while Childs had previously earmarked the week of May 25 as a last chance to respond, he is now telling Davis the timetable is in flux.
June 4, 2009:
Yingling and Davis contact Childs to confirm the requested material will be hand-couriered in a matter of hours. In much the same breath, however, Yingling explains there is another sheaf of documents best presented in person. Accordingly, she doesn't want to send them along without having an opportunity to discuss their implications.
A cordial Childs amicably replies that he and Tobin are available the "next week."
S.P. Times reporters Tobin and Childs spent 13 weeks traveling to see their "folks" (sources), but refused to travel and see new Churches of Scientology and publishing facilities. [See Creating a New Era of Expansion]
A meeting is then set for the following Wednesday, June 10 in Clearwater, and Yingling again reconfirms the David Miscavige interview as set for the 6th of July: "Mr. Miscavige's schedule is clear. And if you would like to speak to him, he will be available." She then emphasizes that Mr. Miscavige "doesn't mess around on these kinds of things. You should know that."
Childs—as straight as he ever is: "We've got the date on the calendar."
June 10, 2009:
The Church has now compiled an additional thousand column-inches of documentation—all of it exposing S.P. Times sources. Simultaneously, Davis and Feshbach have also now arranged interviews with key Church executives who will provide first-hand accounts of Rathbun and company abuses. These interviews are scheduled to commence immediately on completion of the OT Summit week. Finally, and also as a prelude to the much-anticipated David Miscavige interview, an incisive tour of representative Church facilities is scheduled for both reporters.
Meanwhile, back in the S.P. Times camp, Childs and Tobin have studied the 2,000 column inches. They posed no follow-up questions and arrive at the Fort Harrison's Colonial Conference Room in all apparent eagerness to receive the next thousand inches.
All key players are present: Childs and Tobin on one side of the table; Davis, Feshbach, Yingling and Walsh on the other.
The binders are also conspicuously present, and Church counsel and representatives now walk the reporters through the contents.
Included is a Rathbun admission citing more than 50 counts of physical and verbal abuse on fellow staff members, e.g.:
"I threw him up against a wall, then grabbed him and forcibly led him outside into private for a tongue-lashing."
"I chased him and tackled him down the stairs and shoved his head into the corner, holding his jaw for several seconds while giving him a severe reality adjustment."
In all, this portion of the documentation evidences incidents of violence on 22 individuals—all of them in Mr. Miscavige's absence.
There is another set of documents concerning Scobee. It catalogs gross executive incompetence coupled with sexual misconduct.
There's another again on DeVocht, who freely confesses to wasting millions in Church funds through botched construction projects.
Initially Childs and Tobin are silent. Childs says only:
There's another telling moment when Feshbach asks if Rathbun had ever mentioned the beatings to either reporter.
To which Tobin replies:
"No, nothing like this."
The now obvious point: Never once, in 13 weeks of their "Journalism 101" investigation, did Childs or Tobin ask a single probing question of their sources. They merely provided them a forum to vent. And as even a cub reporter would have surmised, it was all motivated by their sources' desire to "get" Mr. Miscavige.
It concludes with a phrase originally uttered on the 28th. It's a phrase that even appears in the Tobin-Childs article. But it's watered down and buried amidst a mass of unrelated statements, which is a classic tabloid trick. Nevertheless, by the 10th of June, Childs indeed had a story about physical abuse:
"You just have the names wrong.... Literally, the names are
All again ends on a seemingly congenial note. Davis begins by saying:
"I think the best thing to do is for us to just stay in communication. We are continuing to provide you with things."
But Childs is still pondering the sheer weight of the documentation:
"This obviously took some time. We're glad to have it. It was real helpful. Don't you agree?" (Turning to Tobin.)
Davis then concludes with a summary statement that reads:
"Can you now understand why we said, 'If we just send them this, how's that going to....'"
But it's Tobin who now cuts in to assure Davis the meeting was vital:
"No, it needed you here to explain it all."
Davis then assures Childs of continued cooperation:
"Stay in touch and if you think of anything else.... In reading through it [the materials provided], if there is something you don't understand, just call me and we can figure it out."
> > The Final Whipsaw
June 11 - 16, 2009:
Davis, Yingling and company have now departed Clearwater, while Childs and Tobin allegedly "circle back" to present "their people" with a new round of questions.
Concurrently, Mr. Miscavige is now finalizing presentations and materials relative to major strategic strides he will announce starting June 21 at the "OT Summit."
Although the ball is officially in the Tobin-Childs court, Davis, Feshbach, Yingling and Walsh continue scheduling for the tours they hope the reporters will entertain.
June 17, 2009:
11:15 a.m. PST: Childs telephones Davis.
Childs confirms he indeed circled back to his sources—in particular with questions for Rathbun. Rathbun copped to it and confirmed a final and especially brutal assault on Rinder: "Marty mentioned to me people he hit. You were right. He verified the list you gave us and added some names we didn't have." To which Childs adds: "It is a long list. That too will be in the article."
Childs also tells of questioning Rinder—and yes: "Mike said Marty hit him, pretty much the way you described it."
In other words, everything the Church had told the Times was true. And in 13 weeks of so-called objective journalistic "investigation," the Times had discovered none of it.
Immediately thereafter, however, the conversation shifts, and Davis is suddenly cognizant that something has dramatically changed.
Childs' voice is now flat, cold. He informs Davis that Rinder is no longer merely fact-checking, the man has also now "agreed to answer questions on the record" and is corroborating a number of Rathbun's allegations. Childs then lists out a litany of new allegations from Rinder. He then bluntly says: "It's Wednesday. And if you wish to respond, you should do it sooner rather than later."
At which point the exchanges continue in kind with Davis asking, "Does that mean you're going to press this weekend?"
But this time Childs is evasive, saying only that he "can't be definite about when we will publish."
Davis is astonished, "My God! So you've actually made the decision to not wait and talk to Mr. Miscavige? Is that the decision that's actually been made?"
Childs replies, "I didn't say that."
But, in fact, he's now merely paying lip service to a fundamental code of journalistic ethics which absolutely mandates that persons attacked in print be afforded every opportunity to set the record straight. So what's really driving events now is that rather than circling back to their sources with probing questions drawn from Church documentation, Childs and Tobin spent the last seven days covering their bases.
Which is to say: knowing their sources were annihilated, and knowing Rathbun testimony was tainted with repeated lies, Childs and Tobin brought in Rinder to corroborate.
In consequence, and likewise now knowing he must prepare to deal with Rinder's allegations, Davis concludes the conversation by telling Childs he would review the new allegations and get back to him. However, not without confirming, "You've laid out everything you need to fill me in on?"
Childs responds succinctly: "Yes. You know how to reach me."
June 18, 2009:
The last pieces fall into place through a second telephone call 28 hours later.
In light of the Childs turnabout, Davis and Yingling call the reporter at approximately three o'clock in the afternoon to explain they have rearranged their schedules and will board a third flight to Clearwater—this time to provide reporters with documentation concerning Rinder. They are also now prepared to bring on those Church executives
Childs and Tobin have previously requested to interview. Davis concludes that the Church is available on Wednesday, and would like confirmation Childs and Tobin are available.
Childs disregards the effort and announces for the first time: "Our position is that the Church can respond today or tomorrow."
Davis is nonplussed, telling Childs it was made clear from the outset that the people they requested to interview—the alleged victims of violence—wanted to speak to the Times: "We still maintain those people are available to you."
Childs responds, and he obviously couldn't care less: "We are not willing to wait till next Wednesday."
It's at this point that Yingling raises the most critical issue of all—the original Tobin-Childs request for a David Miscavige interview. It's a request Mr. Miscavige has honored from day one and it's still on calendar for the 6th of July: "So are you now saying that you don't want to interview Mr. Miscavige after he agreed to be interviewed?"
The Childs position is almost inconceivable: "We are not waiting until July 6 to talk to Mr. Miscavige."
Davis, searching for some shred of logic: "How can you do a full story without talking to the person who is the focus of the story?"
Yet by now Childs is simply repeating stock answers:
"We have talked to you folks for 17 hours.
"We're a news organization.
"We've listened carefully and now it's time to go."
And when bluntly asked why he was willing to publish a story about the Church with allegations about its leader without even interviewing the subject of that story, all he can finally admit to is: "I didn't expect that you guys would say, 'Ok, you can interview him.' So I thought, 'Well, gosh. This is probably a story that he is not gonna sit and talk to us.'"
The admission was stunning. The Times had banked on the target of their attack not responding to their allegations. Now the Times would cancel it so he couldn't respond.
Finally, when asked why he was willing to forego all other previously scheduled interviews (interviews requested by the Times ) and why he likewise refused to tour Church facilities, he simply shrugs it off with another stock tagline: "Not for this story."
But there was something else Childs said, which evidenced either his irresponsibility or that someone else was pulling the strings: "This isn't a Joe Childs decision." To which he later added in emphasis: "This is an organizational decision."
> > The Eleventh-Hour Shuffle
What the S.P. Times would later characterize as the Church of Scientology's "Eleventh-Hour Appeal" commenced on June 19, 2009. It was so named for what the S.P. Times would seem to have regarded as an inside joke—that they were granting the Church clemency from a death sentence. After all, everybody in the Tampa/St. Pete area knew the Times saw itself as judge, jury and executioner, not to mention emperor of the Gulf Coast. But, in fact, all that died on the 19th of June were the last remaining vestiges of journalistic integrity.
All began when Church executives insist on traveling to Clearwater to personally present their own first-hand accounts. To effect exactly that, Davis arranges a convergence of nearly two dozen people into Clearwater, including a dozen International Management executives who have known and worked with Mr. Miscavige for decades and whom the Times supposedly requested to interview just weeks earlier. Also arriving from New York and Washington, DC, are Church counsel Yingling and Walsh. All are determined to speak to Childs and Tobin.
When all flights are arranged, Davis telephones Childs and leaves the message: He is coming to Clearwater and will meet the reporters at the Fort Harrison—10 a.m. sharp.
June 19, 2009:
In fact, however, Tobin and Childs are late—10:21 a.m. to be precise.
Davis opens the meeting with pertinent information on Rinder, including: how he lied under penalty of perjury, how he lied to Mr. Miscavige on 43 separate occasions regarding critical legal issues and how he deliberately sabotaged the restoration of the most fundamental Scientology Scriptures.
Also on the table are the details of Rinder's departure from the Church—not in protest, not under pressure, but out of frustration for the fact he'd been demoted.
With nothing more to say about their "Fact-Checker," it's now that Davis informs Childs and Tobin a number of people have flown through the night and are waiting to see them.
Tobin and Childs are wary, but with Davis, Yingling, Walsh and Feshbach pressing, the reporters resentfully begin to hear from those who best knew Rathbun, DeVocht, Rinder and Scobee.
Included therein are ex-wives, two of whom were their former husbands' superiors, and they describe exactly how the men had lied. There are also victims of Rathbun abuse who detail every blow. There are still more again from those who worked with Mr. Miscavige for decades.
It is in reply to all this, then, that Childs keeps asking:
"Are we ready to just go? Let's go."
"You're dumping. This is a dumping thing, you're dumping them on us."
"We're on our way. We're on our way."
And so it went until Childs and Tobin indeed pull the plug. Those left standing in their wake include Marc Yager, Guillaume Lesevre, Ray Mithoff and Mark Ingber—representing a combined Church experience of more than 450 years. Moreover, had they been given opportunity to fully respond, these interviewees would have provided unequivocal, first-hand evidence that the Times' sources were lying and that Rathbun committed the physical abuse. [See The Brush-Off]
These interviewees would have provided unequivocal, first-hand evidence that the Times' sources were lying...
> > What Happens Now, Joe?
Not only has Joe Childs now formally turned his back on a level of access to Church executives unprecedented in Church history, he finishes the day with an outright refusal to interview Mr. David Miscavige. It is an interview he never intended to conduct.
"I take it this means that you don't want to interview Mr. Miscavige?"
Childs responds with an unreadable expression:
"No. We are not waiting till July the 6th."
Of course, the Times knows Mr. Miscavige is out of the country and not available until the 6th of July, immediately following his return to the States.
"So what happens now, Joe?"
Childs with still no recognizable emotion:
"We publish our story when we get it ready."
In fact, the Tobin-Childs story was all but written and all that remained was the pretense of objectivity in the face of facts such as these:
- That the reporters had spent more than 500 hours and 13 weeks in three states developing their story, and had even flown in one source to convince another to formally "go on record."
- That in contrast to those 13 weeks and 500 hours the Church was afforded barely 30 hours over three weeks. Moreover, even while meeting with the Church, the reporters continued "massaging" their sources for stories... Which, all told, means Tobin and Childs devoted more than 16 weeks to "their folks."
- And that in the end, had they only waited another two weeks as previously agreed, they could have at least fulfilled their first and foremost obligation to meet with the man whom they were ultimately writing about. (While despite the urgency with which they supposedly "rushed to press," they spend the morning after publication breakfasting Scobee at an International House of Pancakes in Clearwater.)
It was also now incumbent on reporters to cloud the fact that through those 16 weeks they never once revealed the focus of their story was Mr. Miscavige—exclusively. In that regard, it was a liar's game from the start: first requesting an interview, then summarily cancelling it—and all the while knowing the jig wouldn't be up until their story hit the stands.
Then again, of course, they had to justify the fact they published a three-part series on a man they never interviewed—indeed, even cancelled the scheduled interview.
And finally, they had to justify the fact they had graced the front page of their paper with his photograph, because who would buy an S.P. Times with the faces of their sources on the cover—people nobody ever heard of, much less cared about?