Late last year, the St Petersburg Times published a series of stories which, together, were an exposé of the Church of Scientology. This project, known as “The Truth Rundown,” is extensive, and must have been a massive undertaking. The paper has a long history of exposing Scientology, dating back decades, so this is, perhaps, not unusual. The CoS’s response — aside from simply dismissing the comprehensive reports as “total lies” — was to commission its own investigation of the St Petersburg Times and of “The Truth Rundown” itself … i.e. to “fight fire with fire” as the saying goes. That investigation, however, has ended, at Scientology’s direction, and will not be disclosed. TV station WUSF in Tampa reports on this development (WebCite cached article):

The Church of Scientology is deploying a new weapon in its three-decade battle with the St. Petersburg Times: award-winning investigative journalists.

Those reporters completed their own review of the newspaper’s coverage of Scientology, but church officials won’t release it.

In 1980, The St. Petersburg Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the secretive religion, headquartered in Clearwater. Since then, church officials have said the newspaper’s coverage is unfair.

So church officials decided to do something about it, according to spokesman Tommy Davis.

“To be honest, I think we just took a playbook from the media,” Davis said. “Media pay reporters all the time to investigate things.

“So we thought it warranted some investigation, and so we hired some reporters to investigate. It’s pretty straightforward, in that regard,” he said.

To the CoS’s credit, they’re correct about this. It is fair to investigate the investigators, so to speak. But since they’re not disclosing the results of that investigation, it’s likely that it never turned up whatever dirt that Scientology had expected to turn up.

Those reporters are Christopher Szechenyi, an Emmy-winning television producer from Boston, and Russell Carollo, a Colorado-based reporter who won a Pulitzer for uncovering medical malpractice in the military. …

Carollo and Szechenyi declined to be interviewed for this story. In a statement, they said they never misrepresented themselves or who they were working for. They also said they were paid in advance and had complete editorial control of their work.

In any case, the newspaper declined to cooperate with the investigation, saying it would fuel the religion’s ongoing campaign to discredit The Times.

“They have, at various points, threatened litigation against us for performing this kind of journalism,” Brown said. “When you’ve been threatened with lawsuits, it doesn’t make sense to have a conversation with subjects who are threatening you about the work.

There was an added layer of the investigation, too, that being an editorial one:

The reporters completed their review and turned it over for an edit to Steve Weinberg, a long-time University of Missouri journalism professor and former executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors.

While the CoS hasn’t released the report, they’re using it indirectly against their foes at the Times:

But that didn’t stop Davis from speaking about the report to Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz, who broke this story Monday [cached article page 1 and page 2]. Davis called the report “highly critical” of the Times.

In their statement, the reporters said Davis “did not accurately portray the full scope of our work” and urged the Church to release the report.

But they say they can’t talk about their findings, because of their contract with the Church.

Unfortunately for Scientology, they don’t get to claim that this report condemns the St Petersburg Times if they refuse to disclose its contents; a report that says the Times is in the wrong, but they won’t allow anyone to see, is inseparable from a report that does not, in fact, state that the Times is in the wrong.

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2 Responses to “Scientology Fights Fire With Fire, Then Extinguishes It”
  1. "One hires a reporter who gets to work thinking up ideas and turning out releases." -L. Ron Hubbard, "HOW TO HANDLE BLACK PROPAGANDA" church official policy, published 21 Nov 1972. It is Scientology church scriptures to use reporters to do this type of work defending Scientology. Even more reprehensible, or rather irreligious, is Hubbard's confidential "Black Propaganda" policy for the church sub bureaucratic unit, the one that hires reporters and writers, called the "Office of Special Affairs." here you go, here are excerpts from L. Ron Hubbard's marching orders that fuel these behind the scenes tactics that cause Scientology's recurring controversies:


    15, 18 February 1988 Confidential BLACK PROPAGANDA …. Our propaganda is dirty…. We do this trick by survey and attack…. we become re-classified as attackers and the enemy as bad hats …… We just run propaganda campaigns….It reclassifies our attackers as evil people… Achieve for ourselves a dominance in classifying ourselves and others." "L. RON HUBBARD, … official Church policy.

    "16 FEBRUARY 1969 "Confidential" "TARGETS, DEFENSE" "….. Our next best defense line was being sure the public knew we were a Church." "…The vital targets on which we must invest most of our time are: …Depopularizing the enemy to a point of total obliteration." "….Use all other similar groups as allies." “L. RON HUBBARD” “Founder” “Adopted as official Church policy by CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY INTERNATIONAL”

    Chuck Beatty, ex Scientology staffer life time bureaucrat, 1975-2003, Pittsburgh, 412-260-1170,

  2. […] Church of Scientology has found the going tough, the last few months. A court defeat in France, exposées based on accounts by ex-Scientologists, published in more than one venue, have plagued the so-called “religion” of a deceased […]