The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology, No. 12: Tommy Davis
On August 5, we started a countdown that will give credit -- or blame -- to the people who have contributed most to the sad current state of Scientology. From its greatest expansion in the 1980s, the church is a shell of what it once was and is mired in countless controversies around the world. Some of that was self-inflicted, and some of it has come from outside. Join us now as we continue on our investigation of those people most responsible...
#12: Tommy Davis (and other hapless church executives)
Scientology leader David Miscavige's iron grip on the organization has led to an exodus among Scientology's upper ranks over the last decade, greatly diminishing the pool of executives to choose from.
The leading remaining Miscavige loyalist is undoubtedly on-again-off-again spokesman Tommy Davis, who is the son of Scientologist actress Anne Archer. Scientology mouthpieces never have it easy, as they're constantly being called upon to defend or deny indefensible policies like disconnection, or handling questions about galactic overlord Xenu, whether or not they've been exposed to the Xenu material by reaching the level of OT III. Scientology spokespersons have almost always conveyed an elitist, disdainful air -- precisely the opposite most organizations want their public faces to communicate. But Davis has taken the role of disastrous public spokesman to catastrophic new levels.
Whether he's ripping off his microphone and storming out of an interview with ABC's Martin Bashir in response to a question about Xenu, or abruptly ending an interview with the BBC's John Sweeney after Sweeney used the term "sinister cult," Davis's conduct leads the average viewer to the inescapable conclusion that Scientology is a petulant, hostile, humorless organization.
Westchester Knicks Playoffs - Round 2 Game 1
TicketsTue., May. 3, 8:00pm
New York Islanders Playoff Round 2 Game D (If Necessary)
TicketsWed., May. 4, 12:00am
New York Islanders Playoff Round 2 Game B (If Necessary)
TicketsFri., May. 6, 7:00pm
New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox
TicketsFri., May. 6, 7:05pm
But Davis does much more for Scientology than convey its worst face to the public. As we reported last week, Davis apparently negotiates the silence and complicity of ex-members when he's not otherwise busy failing to answer questions from the media. Davis, along with his wife Jessica Feshbach (see below), gamely worked to convince ex-member Shane Clark to quit his job with ex-member Marc Headley -- in exchange, Clark would enjoy continued contact with his family, who were still members. What made Tommy Davis's disconnection negotiation with Shane Clark all the more notable, of course, was that Davis is on record denying that Scientology practices disconnection.
As we noted in that piece, Davis has been rather scarce lately. After being the public face of Scientology for several years, Davis has suddenly become invisible. Former members tell us they believe that one of Davis's many gaffes must have angered Miscavige, who now has Davis under wraps at Scientology's desert headquarters near Hemet, California
While we wait to see when Davis is going to resurface, we're also going to note some other hapless Scientology employees who have helped cement its reputation as a badly run organization experiencing a historic nosedive.
As President of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, Scientology's anti-psychiatry front group, Jan Eastgate was actually pretty good at her job. Sure, of all Scientology's front groups, CCHR was probably the easiest ship to steer, since it isn't difficult to tap into resentment and opposition to big pharmaceutical companies. And unlike Narconon, which covertly delivers Scientology processes to drug addicts, or Applied Scholastics, which covertly delivers Scientology processes to school children, CCHR rarely triggers lawsuits and school board meetings because it operates at the public policy level and has relatively little interaction with the general public.
Even with those advantages, as head of CCHR, Eastgate sometimes can't help shoot herself in the foot, such as by routinely citing psychiatry's "Nazi roots" and its having caused the Holocaust. But unsubstantiated bombast and Nazi comparisons are nothing compared to the mess Eastgate has since put herself -- and by extension, Scientology -- in, when she was charged in Australia this past June with "perverting the course of justice." Those charges date to 1985, when she was head of the CCHR Australia. She is accused of coaching an 11-year old girl, Carmen Rainer, along with Rainer's mother, to lie to authorities about Carmen having been sexually abused by her stepfather, Robert Kerr, in order to head off potentially bad publicity for Scientology. And yet, CCHR's website still lists Eastgate as its President.
Though she doesn't appear to be a Scientology executive at the moment, Bennetta Slaughter has served Scientology in so many capacities over the years that she merits an entry. Slaughter is probably best known as Lisa McPherson's employer in Dallas and in Clearwater, Florida. Slaughter also helped cover up details about McPherson's death on behalf of Scientology, telling the Tampa Tribune that McPherson had "just got sick and died... There's nothing else there." More egregiously, she lied to Lisa McPherson's
aunt mother, Fannie McPherson, breaking the news of Lisa's death by telling Fannie that Lisa had became ill at work "and just kept getting sicker and sicker" before finally dying of "fast-acting meningitis." [See Janet Reitman's excellent book, Inside Scientology, p. 228]. Slaughter would go on to form dozens of local community groups in Clearwater, and at one point, a number of them incorporated in Lisa McPherson's name in stated opposition to Bob Minton's Lisa McPherson Trust.
Slaughter again ran interference for Scientology after the Reed Slatkin Ponzi scheme came to light in 2001. In the ensuing confusion that follows any Ponzi scheme, Bennetta sent multiple e-mails to the various investors, instructing them to send her money, how to fill out SEC forms, etc., in a transparent attempt to handle investors who might be hostile to the fact that much of Slatkin's illegally procured gains disappeared into Scientology.
Slaughter's hard work paid off when, in 2001, she became CEO of Scientology's education front group, Applied Scholastics, headquartered in St. Louis. Despite Slaughter claiming in 2002 that no relationship between Scientology and Applied Scholastics existed, St. Louis Public Schools officials concluded otherwise and rejected her attempts to impose Scientology on schoolchildren throughout the city. Slaughter reportedly left Applied Scholastics in 2007.
Like Tommy Davis, public affairs director Pat Harney is occasionally thrust into the unenviable position of having to defend Scientology's practices. Unlike Davis, Harney wisely refrains from imposing her own drama. But the incredulous bluster she resorts to in doing her job isn't difficult to pick apart. For example, she complained in an op-ed about the St. Pete Times' refusal to consider reams of dead agenting material the church had offered as a rebuttal to the Times' landmark "Truth Rundown" series, in which numerous ex-members claimed that Scientology leader David Miscavige violently beat church officials. To Harney, this was an example of "bigotry" by the Times. In July of this year, she was again given a platform to whine, this time over a positive review the Tampa Tribune had given Janet Reitman's Inside Scientology. Among Harney's gripes were that Reitman had only spoken with "one practicing Scientologist," which is ironic, given that one of the more interesting moments in Reitman's book is her creepy first meeting with... Harney, presumably still a practicing Scientologist. Why creepy? Because Harney was somehow aware of Reitman's early arrival in Clearwater without Reitman having told her of it.
Jessica Feshbach's name threads in and out of Scientology in so many ways. She's the daughter of a wealthy and influential Scientology family, the wife of Tommy Davis, a member of Scientology's Sea Org, a Scientology spokeswoman, and even finds time to serve as Katie Holmes's best friend and handler. It was during Feshbach's stint as Holmes's BFF, in 2005, that she first weirded out a wider public when she sat in on W magazine's interview with Holmes, periodically interrupting to answer questions on Holmes's behalf. Feshbach has since become better known for appearances on audiotaped conversations with her husband Tommy Davis. In 2009, Davis and Feshbach met with Orientation voice-over actor Larry Anderson to negotiate his silence in exchange for a refund of the balance of Anderson's account, holding the threat of disconnection over Anderson's head. This past week we revealed that around the same time, Feshbach also sat in with Davis to negotiate the silence of ex-member Shane Clark, detailed above.
Denise Miscavige-Covington-Licciardi-Gentile -- yes, David's twin sister -- has caused at least as many flaps and embarrassments for her Chairman of the Board brother as the number of surnames she's managed to collect, and that's obviously saying something. While working for Scientologist Bryan Zwan at his then-successful company Digital Lightwave, Denise exposed the company to SEC liability by instituting a highly misleading inventory system, according to a subsequently filed affidavit in a lawsuit brought by an ex-employee, Seth Joseph. Joseph filed his lawsuit after he was fired for refusing to go along with Denise's phantom accounting scheme. The Joseph case and the resulting SEC imbroglio resulted in a gusher of embarrassing documents providing a fascinating peek into a company run entirely by Scientology Admin tech.
But all that pales in comparison to the mess Denise presently finds herself in as a co-defendant in the wrongful death suit filed by the estate of Kyle Brennan. The lawsuit alleges that Kyle shot and killed himself with his father's handgun after his father hid his Lexapro, an antidepressant. A short time prior to Kyle's death, Denise -- who was Kyle's father's "Chaplain" -- had phoned Kyle's mother in Virginia to ask her approval to enroll Kyle in Narconon, which Kyle's mother refused. Denise subsequently denied even knowing that Kyle was on Lexapro. The case is still ongoing.
John Carmichael's more than 24 years as President of the Church of Scientology of New York have been mostly uneventful, but two decades of defending Scientology to the New York media have apparently taken their toll on "Rev." Carmichael. Or maybe the NYC Anonymous crew would have caused anyone to snap, which is what happened when Carmichael confronted Anonymous in 2008 and was recorded on video snarling at one protestor, "Let me tell you this: I smell pussy. You in particular." Good luck finding another "Reverend" in any other religion willing to get as down and dirty as Carmichael.
Along with this rogue's gallery of incompetence, it seems fitting to include Scientology's disastrous propaganda organ. Freedom Magazine's recent New Yorker parody was so beyond the pale, we couldn't imagine anyone really comprehending its schizo attacks and weird stabs at humor other than church leader Miscavige himself. Previous broadsides against the St. Pete Times and CNN's Anderson Cooper were also remarkably stupid, but this disinformation rag is entering truly batshit crazy territory, and we agree with former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder, who tells us that Freedom's increasing insanity will likely lead to more church members questioning its mission and ultimately looking elsewhere for the facts -- a risky situation for the insular church.
We're sure you'll think of other executives and entities in Scientology that deserve to be on this list, and as usual, we expect to hear about it in the comments. So let us have it! And come back for #11 on our countdown, which will appear Wednesday morning at 9 am. [Huge thanks to Scott Pilutik on his contribution to the research and drafting of this countdown item.]
Karin Pouw is a longtime member of Scientology's PR crew, and I've always had a soft spot in my heart for her. Well, at least ever since a lunch I had with her in 1999 at the Hollywood Celebrity Centre. Concerned with stories we were doing at New Times Los Angeles, she had invited our editor and publisher to lunch at the Centre's swanky restaurant, Renaissance, and at the last minute the publisher cancelled. My editor asked me to go along, which was clearly not in Pouw's plans -- she didn't exactly look thrilled to see me. Over a lovely plate of Chilean sea bass and wild rice, I tried to engage her in conversation about Scientology beliefs, which seemed to make her increasingly uncomfortable. At some point, I got on to some of the more interesting elements of the OT III materials -- in particular that Xenu's R6 implant had indoctrinated the disembodied alien souls clinging to us with false memories, such as the concept of "Jesus Christ." Scientology publicly says you can be a Christian and a Scientologist at the same time -- but is that really an honest claim, when Hubbard said Christ was just an implanted memory? Well, she got pretty agitated at this point, and I included her outburst in a subsequent story: "So what if we believe Jesus is a figment of the imagination?" she barked. Ah, if only all Scientology PR people were so open.
The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology #1: L. Ron Hubbard #2: David Miscavige #3: Marty Rathbun #4: Tom Cruise #5: Joe Childs and Tom Tobin #6: Anonymous #7: Mark Bunker #8: Mike Rinder #9: Jason Beghe #10: Lisa McPherson #11: Nick Xenophon (and other public servants) #12: Tommy Davis (and other hapless church executives) #13: Janet Reitman (and other journalists) #14: Tory Christman (and other noisy ex-Scientologists) #15: Andreas Heldal-Lund (and other old time church critics) #16: Marc and Claire Headley, escapees of the church's HQ #17: Jefferson Hawkins, the man behind the TV volcano #18: Amy Scobee, former Sea Org executive #19: The Squirrel Busters (and the church's other thugs and goons) #20: Trey Parker and Matt Stone (and other media figures) #21: Kendrick Moxon, attorney for the church #22: Jamie DeWolf (and other L. Ron Hubbard family members) #23: Ken Dandar (and other attorneys who litigate against the church) #24: David Touretzky (and other academics) #25: Xenu, galactic overlord
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared
SCIENTOLOGY IN THE VILLAGE VOICE
[Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis secretly recorded discussing "disconnection"] [Benjamin Ring, LA deputy sheriff, wants you to spend your 401K on Scientology] [Scientologists: How many of them are there, anyway?]
MARTY RATHBUN AND THE SIEGE OF SOUTH TEXAS
[Scientology has Rathbun arrested] | [Rathbun and Mark Bunker reveal surprising ties] In Germany with Ursula Caberta: [Announcing plans] | [Press conference] | [Making news about Tom Cruise, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair] | [Post-trip interview] The Squirrel Busters: [Goons with cameras on their heads] | [Rathbun's open letter to neighbors] | [Ingleside on the Bay, Texas rallies to Rathbun's cause] | [Squirrel Buster's claim to be making a "documentary"] | [VIDEO: "On a Boat"] | ["Anna" sent to creep out Monique Rathbun] | [Squirrel Busters go hillbilly] | [A videographer blows the whistle on the goon squad] | [Ed Bryan, OT VIII, shows the power of Scientology's highest levels]
SCIENTOLOGY SPYING AND "FAIR GAME"
[Secret Scientology documents spell out spying operation against Marc Headley] [Scientology's West U.S. spies list revealed] | [Scientology's enemies list: Are you on it?] Spy operation against Washington Post writer Richard Leiby: [Part 1] | [Part 2] [A Scientology spy comes clean: Paulien Lombard's remarkable public confession] [Scientology advertises for writers in Freedom magazine] [Accidental leak shows Scientology spy wing plans to "handle" the Voice]
SCIENTOLOGY AND CELEBRITIES
["Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [Tom Cruise likes coconut cake] | [Tom Cruise has a sense of humor] | ["Tom Cruise not a kook!"] | [Paulette Cooper on Tom Cruise] [Paul Haggis, director of Crash, issues an ultimatum, leaves the church] [Character actor Jason Beghe defects noisily] | [Actor Michael Fairman reveals his "suppressive person" declaration] | [Michael Fairman talks to the Voice] [Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh: Scientology-Branch Davidian link makes sense] [Russell Brand weds ex-Scientologists in wild ceremony] | [Skip Press on Haggis] [Placido Domingo Jr.: Scientology's retaliation is "scary and pathetic"] Grant Cardone, NatGeo's "Turnaround King": [Doing Scientology's dirty work?] | [Milton Katselas complained about Cardone's smear job] | [Cardone runs to Huffpo]
JANET REITMAN'S INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY
[Our review of Inside Scientology] | [An interview with Janet Reitman] | [A report from Reitman's first book tour appearance] | [At the Half-King: Reitman not afraid] [Scientology doesn't like Inside Scientology] | [Q&A at Washington Post] [A roundup of Reitman's print reviews, and why isn't she on television more?]
HUGH URBAN'S THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY
EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT
[Marc Headley: "Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [The Nancy Many interview] [Sympathy for the Devil: Tory Christman's Story] | [Jeff Hawkins' Counterfeit Dreams] [86 Million Thin Dimes: The Lawrence Wollersheim Saga] | [Mike Rinder on spying]
[Scientology singalong, "We Stand Tall"] | [Captain Bill Robertson and "Galactic Patrol"] [Scientology wins a major award!] | [Scientology wants your money: Meet Dede!] [Birmingham in the House! The "Ideal" dance mix] | [Scientology and the Nation of Islam] [When Scientology was hip] | [Sad: David Miscavige makes fun of his own fundraisers] [Freedom magazine parodies The New Yorker. Hilarity ensues.] [Scientology surf report: Anonymous parties outside the New York "org"]
THE VIEW INSIDE THE BUBBLE
[A scientologist's letter to the Voice and its readers] | [Scientology silent birth] [Tad Reeves: Scientology might listen to this guy] | [More Tad Reeves and family] [Scientology never forgets: A heartwarming telemarketing holiday miracle]
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.