Tony Ortega’s Challenge to the Sundance-Enthralled Media

Blogger and featured talking head says Church of Scientology has dropped all smear pretenses

Fresh from a second Park City viewing of Alex Gibney’s documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Tony Ortega makes a typically astute observation about the church’s immediate PR response. And in so doing, he sets the table for one or more enterprising media outlets:

For years, former church members and some journalists have been smeared by websites that hid their ownership. We knew that Scientology operated these anonymous Web pages, and used them to post information that was in some cases gathered during confidential counseling sessions. But the church wouldn’t admit that it was really behind these websites. Now, suddenly, it’s taken a lot of the material that was on those sites which were aimed at Tom DeVocht and Marty Rathbun and Paul Haggis, and it’s put them on Freedom’s own website.

In other words, Scientology has dropped all pretense about its smear tactics. Of course it was behind those anonymous attack sites in the past, just as we said they were. And now, instead of asking the people in this film what they think about Scientology calling them liars, why doesn’t major media ask Scientology how something that calls itself a church could operate anonymous smear websites designed to destroy reputations?

Gibney’s documentary is set to air next month on HBO. And speaking of pay cable, the film’s highlighting of explosive allegations that the church wiretapped Nicole Kidman track back, as Ortega notes, to the real-life character whose footsteps echo throughout Showtime’s Ray Donovan: imprisoned P.I. Anthony Pellicano.
[Photo of Gibney: Sam Aronov/]

@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.
Publish date: January 27, 2015 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT