January 7, 2015
Re: HBO documentary on Scientology
Dear Mr. Gibney:
I am writing to you as once again you refuse to answer my letters and refer all my communications to your attorney.
You avoided the Church for two years and still refuse to provide us an opportunity to respond to allegations you will make in your film. Yet you have no problem with HBO picking up the entire travel and accommodations tab to send a professional anti-Scientologist like Mike Rinder to Sundance for your screenings. Of note, Rinder admitted that in a sworn deposition just yesterday. Two weeks ago we also deposed another of Wright’s principal sources, Marty Rathbun. Both depositions, under oath, contain incontrovertible evidence about the bias of your sources, not to mention their monetary incentives, which in accordance with journalistic standards you must disclose to viewers and film critics.
We are baffled when told that you already know “the most knowledgeable eyewitnesses” to events without once independently confirming who was present. You can’t claim that, unless you are only listening to the versions of events spun by your embittered sources and are 100% biased yourself. Either way, you are 100% wrong. There are a host of people (not to mention substantial documentary evidence) who have personal knowledge about these people and their allegations. You continue to refuse to provide us the allegations contained in your documentary. But we have read Wright’s book (which you say your documentary is based on and which carries the same title) and, we assure you, there are numerous people who can speak to all of the “sources” in the book and their false allegations.
Furthermore, your attorneys stated my “correspondence are simply bluster” for not providing you the relevant court documents that undermine allegations made in your film. Balderdash. I have evidence—documents and court judicial rulings I told you I would present to you when we meet. On the other hand, it is you who have refused to provide any guidance on which of the allegations or individuals (contained in Wright’s book) you were relying on so we can give you the relevant cases. As a result, since you persist in not providing me this information, you are going to see stacks of documents and decisions for the simple reason that so many cases debunk the falsehoods in Wright’s book, falsehoods for which the Church has been judicially vindicated. Yes, these decisions are about the “sources” (lunatics) Wright searched out and presented as credible.
What is critical to the Church’s ability to respond is to know what allegations are in the documentary. If we aren’t told and don’t know where these things come from, then we can only assume it’s anything and everything in Lawrence Wright’s error-filled book of the same name. As you are doing now, Wright refused to provide us with the source materials for his allegations. Many of them were only revealed to us when his book was published. Now we are familiar with all of the salacious allegations brought against the Church by Wright’s sources. Had Wright checked with us, we would have provided ample information showing the pathological lies of people like Mike Rinder and Marty Rathbun—as well as virtually every “source” Wright revealed to us when the book was published. The only reason not to tell us was to keep us from shredding their credibility. You seem to be following in his footsteps. You’re already on video regarding another documentary you produced for one of Wright’s books stating, “I wasn’t looking for holes in his [Larry’s] story.” In this case, you are desperately trying to plug holes. And in either event, you wouldn’t have to poke holes in his story. We can do that for you. Moreover, you really don’t want to be caught in the same position as you were on the Armstrong documentary where, after initially completing the documentary, Armstrong confessed and you openly admitted that you felt like you were “part of an elaborate con.” Have you learned nothing?
Failing to give us a chance to address allegations speaks to the integrity of the entire project. Any documentary based on a book filled with falsehoods (literally, hundreds) and which omits judicial findings in legal cases that relate to sources in that book (and I can only assume sources in your documentary) won’t be credible. Indeed, it will embarrass you.
Finally, your attorney accuses us of “what amounts to heckling of Mr. Gibney.” Why? Because we are being made to ask again and again for a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to stale fiction spread by the handful of lunatics whose myths Wright, and now you, are swallowing hook, line and sinker?
Also, your attorney stated, “There obviously is very little time before the film is screened at the Sundance Film Festival later this month.” We know. That is why we asked in no fewer than 12 letters to you and HBO commencing November 6, 2014 (2 months ago), for a reasonable opportunity to address questions, assertions and allegations. If that is “heckling,” so be it. The bottom line is you never wanted to speak to us to hear the truth. And you still don’t. That is not objective journalism.
The Church executives and I are very busy. It is inexcusable that you failed to contact us at any point in the last two years while producing your documentary in secret and putting it in-the-can and scheduling its premiere—before contacting us. On the other hand, no matter which of Wright’s sources you are using in your film (apparently an “intimate profile” of eight people), they are people with all the time in the world. We know. We just deposed two of them.
We will be in New York next week to meet. We come with facts, judicial decisions and documents (you know, documents—as in that word documentary). And unlike Rinder, you don’t have to pay our airfare and accommodations. We aren’t in bed with you or Facebook friends.
cc: Sheila Nevins, President, HBO Documentary Films