Scientology Waves the White Flag in Texas: The Debbie Cook Interview


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.

Debbie: No.

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?

Debbie: Yes.

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

January 1: Scientology rocked by allegations of greed in e-mail to 12,000 church members

January 3: Is Scientology imploding? Watching the panic after a former executive dares to question church management

January 4: Scientology in crisis: Debbie Cook’s transformation from enforcer to whistleblower

January 6: Scientology in turmoil: Debbie Cook’s e-mail, annotated

January 31: Scientology sues Debbie Cook over her New Year’s Eve e-mail

February 2: Debbie Cook files to dissolve Scientology’s temporary restraining order: We talk to her attorney, Ray Jeffrey

February 3: Debbie Cook’s motion denied: Scientology’s restraining order remains in place until Thursday hearing

February 4: Scientology wants it both ways: The church’s opposite legal strategies in Florida and Texas

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.

@VoiceTonyO | Facebook: Tony Ortega


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