I’m sitting in a remarkable conference happening right now with Debbie Cook, her husband Wayne Baumgarten (pictured above), their attorney, Ray Jeffrey, and several other journalists.
It’s just a few hours after the Church of Scientology surprisingly waved the white flag and dropped its attempt to keep Cook and Baumgarten gagged. Speaking with other journalists who have covered Scientology for many years, we could not remember another time when Scientology — which has such an aggressive, litigious history — simply gave up like this.
I’ll provide excerpts as we go along. I’m typing as quickly as I can!
After journalists ask Ray Jeffrey some specifics about where the case is going from here, Debbie begins taking questions.
As to the $50,000 she took from Scientology…
Debbie: We didn’t want the money. In fact there was a whole handling to get us to take the money, ahead of what was shown on the video.
Jeffery: In Wayne’s video…he jumped up and left after he signed. They had to bring him back because he didn’t take the money with him.
Debbie then said the money “was to convince us” to go where the church wanted them to go… “we were being told to go someplace we didn’t want to go.”
Debbie: We have to rebuild our business. We had a marketing company…quite a number of our clients were Scientologists, and they left.
On Scientology itself…
Debbie: I have grown up with Scientology my entire life. I feel that the Scientology religion and Mr. Hubbard are kind and caring and wonderful, and I really don’t want people who don’t know anything about Scientology hear these things that went on and for it to reflect badly on the church. Because really the reality is that these things are coming from one person. These horrible things are coming from one person, and maybe some others who have been made to join in and follow suit.
Debbie: I feel that this will help the church…hopefully to get it back to its origins, to its original goodness and kindness.
She’s asked about the church’s statement, that her testimony was false…
Debbie: I take very seriously being under oath, and I absolutely told the truth.
She adds that it makes a big difference having an attorney…
Debbie: This has really been a learning process for me. I’ve never been able to talk to an attorney, and talking to Mr. Jeffrey I’m learning so much about the law and the protections you get under the law.
She’s asked how Scientology could be changed…
Debbie: I’m hoping that it will crate a reformation from within.
She’s asked how many others at a place like Clearwater are under the same kind of control or duress.
Debbie: The people who make it to the highest levels of the church hierarchy, are people who have spent…decades working with the technology, working in the lower parts of the organization, and they will have experienced many life-changing things, much good…. But you don’t see these really insane things happening until you get really high up and begin working with this particular individual…I was there 29 years, a lot of these things happened in the last 7 months of my being there. That’s ultimately what put me in the decision of leaving.
I asked her, Debbie, have you been declared a suppressive person by the church?
Debbie: Actually, I don’t know for sure. I have not been contacted by the church and shown anything on that. I’ve heard from other Scientologists that they’ve been told that I’ve been declared.
Debbie’s asked if she’s been contacted by the FBI.
How large is the reform movement in the church, she’s asked.
Debbie: I don’t know. What I can tell you is that I’ve gotten more than a thousand supportive e-mails since January 1 from Scientologists.
I asked her about the Scientologists who denounced her on Facebook. Did some of them privately tell her they supported her after making a public show of spurning her?
Again, she’s asked about Scientology being reformed. Could it really work?
She says that if the place was run by Hubbard’s principles, it would work well. And, perhaps more importantly…
Debbie: “It would have nothing to hide.”
She’s asked if the abuse we heard about at the Int Base in her testimony was all the abuse that was happening.
Debbie: You saw a tip of the iceberg.
Wow. Great interview. I have a videotape of it, and I’ll upload it later today. Until then, signing off from San Antonio…
Update: So it turns out, after the interview, I came back to the hotel and proceeded to take a big, fat nap. But I hear those of you waiting to see video from this conference. I called the Tampa Bay Times guys, and they said they’re working as fast they can to put up the tape they recorded. I’ll see if there are at least a few excerpts I can put up relatively quickly before their edited pieces are ready. I apologize for the delay!
While you’re waiting, you should really see the January 15 e-mail that Debbie Cook sent to Kathy True explaining all the awful stuff she could have put into her New Year’s Eve salvo — but ended up testifying to in court. In other words, Scientology knew full well what she was prepared to say and walked right into it.
Update #2: OK, so maybe, right about the time I got the first video ready to go, I got called out for some margaritas and couldn’t help myself. I mean, it’s not every day that you get to have drinks with the guy who used to be the second-highest-ranking official in the Church of Scientology (who stuck to diet coke, because he was about to drive a hell of a long way to South Texas). And then, imagine my luck when I subsequently had dinner with a couple of great guys who I will not name but who I am damn fortunate just to have shared the same room with.
Anyway, I could not pass up those opportunities, and I’m finally back in my hotel room and I figure I’ll go late tonight posting videos and preparing tomorrow’s commenters special. So those of you who have stuck with me through this amazing adventure, please hang on a little longer. Man, why is video so time consuming?
Debbie Cook Coverage in the Village Voice…
Also, please see our primer, “What is Scientology?”
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he’s been writing about Scientology at several publications.
SCIENTOLOGY IN THE VILLAGE VOICE
[All recent stories] | [What is Scientology?] | [Top 25 People Crippling Scientology]
[Commenters of the Week] | [Thursday 2pm Stats!] | [Scientology vs. South Park]
[This Week Aboard the Apollo] | [Sunday Funnies]
[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?]
[Scientology hates clean ice: The “Fair Game” operation that should turn your stomach]
[Scientology hates clean ice, part 2: Another target, and the web as weapon]
[Paulette Cooper, Scientology’s original and worst nightmare: a Thanksgiving tribute]
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 | 12. Tommy Davis | 13. Janet Reitman | 14. Tory Christman | 15. Andreas Heldal-Lund | 16. Marc and Claire Headley | 17. Jefferson Hawkins | 18. Amy Scobee | 19. The Squirrel Busters | 20. Trey Parker and Matt Stone | 21. Kendrick Moxon | 22. Jamie DeWolf | 23. Ken Dandar | 24. Dave Touretzky | 25. Xenu
HELD ABOARD THE FREEWINDS: TALES OF THE SEA ORG
[Valeska Paris, held against her will from 1996 to 2007 on Scientology’s cruise ship]
[Ramana Dienes-Browning, marriage at 16, sexual interrogation, life in the engine room]
[Melissa Paris, Valeska’s sister: forced to marry at 16]
SCIENTOLOGY VS. SOUTH PARK: INVESTIGATION AS RETALIATION
[Scientology targeted South Park‘s Parker and Stone in an investigation]
[More documents in the South Park probe: instructions to send in a young mole]
[Scientology responds in typical fashion] | [Lloyd Kaufman confirms the probe]
[Mark Ebner also investigated after South Park involvement]
[Mark Chauppetta, private eye, explains what Scientology operatives look for]
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]
[Lori Hodgson and Disconnection: “No one’s going to take my eternity away”]
SCIENTOLOGY AND CELEBRITIES
[Hey, Scientology Celebrity, Here’s Your Media Training Checksheet!]
[Tom Cruise and X Factor‘s Stacy Francis singing together on the Freewinds]
[X Factor’s Stacy Francis: Her first husband, Michael Sandlofer, answers abuse claims]
[Tom Cruise and Baby Suri embarrassed by news item, so someone must pay]
[“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]
[Philip Boyd, Saving Grace actor, rips “the business that is Scientology”]
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
[“The Money Machine”: another blockbuster St. Pete Times investigation]
[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 in Israel: Arson, attempted murder, paranoia — and a visit by the Voice!]
[Scientology dodges a bullet in Australia] | [Scientology exec Jan Eastgate arrested]
[All hell breaks loose in Israel] | [Scientology sees fundraising gold in the UK riots]
[Aussie former rugby pro Chris Guider calls David Miscavige “toxic” and “violent”]
[Stephen Cox, UK church newbie, pledges 20K pounds] | [Biggi Reichert: A German Lisa McPherson?] | [The Birmingham trove: 7,000 internal e-mails]
[Australian farmer blamed for giving Tom Cruise a bad shrimp, loses her friends, family]
ODD VIDEOS AND ODDER NEWS
[Scientology chillin’ with hip hop!] | [The curious career of Scientology rapper Chill EB]
[Chill EB and me: the Voice interviews Scientology’s in-house rapper]
[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]
[Desperate Scientology fundraising caught on video]