Scientology Leader Gave ABC First-Ever Interview
Nov. 18, 2006 — -- On Feb. 14, 1992, ABC News aired what Scientology leader David Miscavige said was his first-ever interview.
Today, in Italy, Miscavige was the best man at the wedding of actor Tom Cruise, a Scientologist.
Following is a transcript of his 1992 interview.
Ted Koppel, ABC News: Stars such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise say that Scientologyhas changed their lives, but critics charge fraud, that the Church ofScientology is nothing but a scam to take millions from unsuspectingbelievers. Tonight, we'll take you inside the Church of Scientology,as we bring you the first-ever interview with David Miscavige, thehead of the church.Some of you may recall that last May, Time magazine did a cover storyon the Church of Scientology. To say that the leaders of that churchdid not like the story would be a case of wretched understatement. Asyou will hear in a moment from my colleague, Forrest Sawyer, theScientologists launched a multi-million-dollar campaign tocounter the impact of that Time story. It was during that generalperiod and in that context that we got in touch with the man who nowruns the church, David Miscavige, to discuss his appearance on"Nightline." The process has taken nine months. Mr. Miscavige tells usthat he has never done an interview before. And I think it's alsofair to say that he and the men and women who run the Scientologyorganization are somewhat leery of the media. The Church ofScientology, for reasons that we will also be presenting, does notgenerally get a very favorable press. David Miscavige is described inone article as "ruthless, with a volatile temper," in another asbeing "so paranoid that he keeps plastic wrap over his glass ofwater." I was pleasantly surprised, then, when Mr. Miscavige firstcame to my office a few months back. He came alone, without anystaff, and we had an amiable, if intense, conversation. I believe heeven accepted a cup of coffee without plastic wrap. We'll let youmake up your own mind about David Miscavige. We do have some thingsto tell you, however, about the Church of Scientology. Here is thefirst of two reports from Nightline correspondent Forrest Sawyer.
Forrest Sawyer, ABC News: After decades of seeing church officials arrested [and] afterhundreds of lawsuits with critics and defectors, the Scientologybusiness is now booming -- led by a 31-year-old high-schooldropout who seized control of the church 10 years ago and charted anaggressive campaign to make Scientology a household world.
David Miscavige, October 1990: Tonight's event is being televised around the world, to every continent on the globe.
1st Actor, TV Commercial: Let's take a look inside the human mind.
2nd Actor, TV Commercial: Are you using your mind to the fullest?
Sawyer: The church's rapid growth is built on selling one singlemessage: "Scientology has uncovered the secret of human potential."The Scientologists have built their own TV and film studio.
Miscavige: You can't be back in the dark ages of mass communication and be heardin this world today.
Sawyer: Radio broadcasts are prepared, audiotapes reproduced by thethousands on high-speed copiers, original music created, all ofthis to encourage more people to join the movement, and join they do.The church says it now has centers in over 70 countries, with more onthe way. Church leaders say this place, 520 acres southof Los Angeles, a place they call "Gold," is a sign of their rapidexpansion. It is here where top church officials are planning thefuture. "Gold" is run by people who believe so strongly they'vesigned billion-year contracts with the church, a kind ofpriesthood, dressed in uniforms, working over 13 hours a day, earningjust $30 a week. The church says these men and women are only themost dedicated of eight million members worldwide. Church ofScientology president Heber Jentzsch. (interviewing) How do you getto call them members?
Heber Jentzsch, President, Church of Scientology:Because they joined and they came in and they studied Scientology.
Sawyer: They took one course, maybe.
Jentzsch: Well, that's how valuable the course is. Eight million people, yes,over a period of the last-- Since 1954.
Sawyer: Critics say the actual figure is closer to 100,000, butunquestionably, thousands of people, including well-knowncelebrities, do swear by what they call "a technology of the mind."
Chick Corea, Jazz Pianist:And this really directly affects my relationship with people, withindividuals around me, with my loved ones, and also with audiences.
Sawyer: Psychological techniques they say help them feel better and actmore effectively. And there's a promise of something more.
Ken Rose, Defector:From the very beginning, there was an air of mystery, there was anair of somewhere up this path there was something extremely potentand very sort of seductive and attractive.
Sawyer: The introduction begins when you walk into a Scientology center.Problems in your life? Take a personality test. "Evaluators" areready to tell you what's wrong. In fact, the counselorsare operating from a script that tells them exactly what to say. Forinstance, "You are capable and overt as a person, but probably not tothe degree that you should be or would like to be." And the scriptalways ends the same:
1st Scientology "Evaluator":That you are capable and overt, meaning open, as a person--
2nd Scientology "Evaluator":Just not to the degree that you feel that you could be or should be,and this is where Dianetics can help you.
Sawyer: The script tells the evaluators to sell hard: "The moreresistive" -- meaning resistant -- "or argumentative he is, the morethe points should be slammed home." And it works. Students oftenspend thousands of dollars to take more and more courses andcounseling called "auditing." They find problem areas by using an "E-meter," which Scientologists claim can read thoughts, or bymodeling with play-dough. The goal is to become what they call"clear," free of the influence of negative past experiences. For allthe praise of Scientology from church members, there are equallyvocal critics. This past spring, Time magazine published a coverstory on the church, calling it "the cult of greed and power."Reporter Richard Behar.
Richard Behar, Time Magazine:People feel good, they talk about their problems, just like somebodygoing into therapy might feel good talking about their problems. Butthis all seems to have an ulterior motive, and to lead into thisextremely high-priced one-on-one counseling and "auditing."
Sawyer: Dentist John Finucane liked the sales pitch he heard, and endedup spending over $42,000 on services.
Dr. John Finucane, Defector:They've tried to milk every penny they can out of any asset that Ihave, whether it's a credit card, whether it's my home, whether it'sfrom a friend, whether it's from family. If I can get a hold of moneyanywhere, they would like to have that money.
Sawyer: Two years ago, Finucane responded to a newsletter from SterlingManagement, a church-related consultant to health professionals. Hesays they helped his practice, but also led him into Scientology, andkept pushing for even more money. Finucane says they charged $8,500to his credit cards without permission. When they began phoning formore, he turned on his tape recorder.
Finucane (audio tape): So basically, I don't even have enough money for that, just to evenget to the point where I can do my auditing.
Scientologist (audio tape): Well, you have quite a bit, though, John. I mean, you know, I don'tthink buying more is your problem. Your problem is your wife.
Sawyer: Because Finucane's wife opposed the church, they declared him a"PTS," potential trouble source.
Finucane: They said, "Well, you either need to shape things up or 'disconnect,' "as they say, which, they won't ever say divorce. They just say"disconnect."
Sawyer: Ken Rose says he had to choose between the church and hischildren. He says he was told to sign a paper agreeing to waive hisparental rights, or see his sons thrown out of Scientology school.
Rose: On what is probably the darkest day of my life, I spent several hourswith them and their mother, with them, at one point, literally ontheir knees sobbing for me to sign this paper so that they could keepgoing to school.
Sawyer: Defectors claim the church tears families apart every day.Roxanne Friend brought her brother into the church. She says he endedup helping to kidnap her.
Roxanne Friend, Defector:They put me in a little apartment. They had a guard at the front doorand a guard at the back door, and I was not allowed to leave. Therewas no telephone and no means of communication with the outsideworld.
Sawyer: Friend claims she was held to convince her not to see a non-Scientologist doctor when she felt sick.
Friend: And be told, "Yeah, you are ill," but then, "No, we just need to audityou. Give us, you know, $6,000, $12,000, and we'll audit you andyou'll be flying again." That's a direct quote. "We'll get you flyingagain."
Sawyer: Today, Roxanne has incurable cancer, which she says could havebeen treated if diagnosed earlier. She spent over $80,000 onScientology, and has almost nothing left, and no medical insurance.She blames the church.
Friend: You're going to have a sense of anxiety or desperation to do whateverit takes to sign your life away, your money and your mortgage andyour child.
Sawyer: Church officials deny these charges made by what they call "a handfulof disgruntled people," many of whom they say are pursuing lawsuitsin order to squeeze the church for money. The defectors' response?There are hundreds of others who are simply afraid to speak out. Whythey may be afraid and what the church really believes in our nextreport, a few minutes from now.
Koppel: In fact, when we come back, we'll be bringing you part two of ForrestSawyer's report and the first-ever interview with the head of theChurch of Scientology, David Miscavige.
Koppel: What exactly does the Church of Scientology believe, and what canhappen to those who criticize those beliefs? Once again, here's"Nightline" correspondent Forrest Sawyer.
L. Ron Hubbard, author of "Dianetics" (1966):I've slept with bandits in Mongolia and I've hunted withpygmies in the Philippines. As a matter of fact, I have studied 21different primitive races, including the white race.
Sawyer: Scientology's founder was a man with an imagination. L. RonHubbard wrote pulp science fiction for a penny a word and, criticsclaim, manufactured his own life history as well. He called himselfan explorer and a war hero, the man who discovered the keys to theuniverse and used them to heal his own war injuries. Critics sayHubbard's claims were so fanciful that one California Superior Courtjudge declared Hubbard to be "…virtually a pathological liar."
Jentzsch: These are a bunch of people who never caused anything in their livesto begin with, and who I would say are jealous of a man who brought atechnology of religion to this world the like of which has never beenseen before, and it works.
Sawyer: In 1950, Hubbard turned away from pulp novels with a new bookthat would change everything. It was, Hubbard said, the "true scienceof the mind," and it sold millions. When psychiatrists challenged hisclaims that Dianetics could heal illnesses and increase intelligence,Scientologists fought back.
Jentzsch: Psychiatry is Russian and Nazi. Remember, it's an import. It's likebringing the bonic, the bubonic plague into America, as far as I'mconcerned. They are not American, and we are. And they can go back towhere they came from.
Sawyer: Hubbard said psychiatry was part of a vast conspiracy to destroyhis newly formed church and control mankind. Recent Scientology filmsstill attack psychiatrists as potential killers.
Actor, Scientology Film: And with each little swing, a manageable andcomposed individual, one, two, three.
Sawyer: Hubbard also announced he had gone beyond psychiatry, byliterally traveling in space to Venus and Mars, and to a distantradiation belt.
Hubbard: I was up in the Van Allen Belt. This is factual. And I don't know whythey're scared of the Van Allen Belt, because it's simply hot. You'dbe surprised how warm space is.
Sawyer: Hubbard said he had discovered secrets of the universe sopowerful they could only be heard by Scientologists who had spenthundreds of hours studying his programs. Anyone else would be struckdead by the knowledge. He told stories of how, 75 million years ago,an evil tyrant collected beings on other planets to be stored involcanoes on earth.
Hubbard: Boxed them up in boxes, threw them into space planes. DC-8 airplaneis the exact copy of the space plane of that day. No difference,except the DC-8 had fans, propellers on it, and the space planedidn't.
Sawyer: As this film depicts, the spirits' bodies were destroyed byhydrogen bombs, and today their troubled spirits are attached tohuman bodies by the thousands. Called "body thetans," they causeendless problems. Only Scientology knows how to shake them loose.
Friend: You talk to them, and when you find out who they are and what theyare, what they're doing and what's making them stick around you, thenthey blow. And so you pay a lot of money. I mean, you have lots ofbody thetans, so this process takes lots of time.
Sawyer: Scientologists today consider these sacred writings, the story of howmankind's problems evolved millions of years ago on other planets,and so they need to be kept secret. Defectors claim there is anotherreason for secrecy.
Rose: I really think that instead of handing out personality tests on thestreet, they handed out a story that said, you know, "What's reallyplaguing you is that you're encrusted with little spirits and thesespirits are suffering from an incident that took place 75 millionyears ago, and if you come on into our church we'll cure you ofthis," I think that there would be a high rate of people saying, "Nothanks."
Sawyer: L. Ron Hubbard died in 1985, leaving behind a church embroiledin controversy. The IRS has been in hot pursuit for years, defectorsare suing for millions of dollars in damages, and critics are loudlyclaiming the church is running a huge con game. Once again, thechurch is fighting back.
Behar: I've done a lot of investigative stories in my career, and this thing, this thing takes the cake.
Sawyer: When Richard Behar published a critical story in Time magazinein May, the church mounted a $3-million campaign in USA Today,accusing the magazine of being manipulated by drug companies thechurch opposes. Behar claims they went even further.
Behar: I have evidence that they've gotten hold of my personal phonerecords. They've called up friends, neighbors, a former colleague.I've gotten a visit to my apartment building which I believe isconnected to the story.
Sawyer: It is, critics claim, part of a policy called "fair game," inwhich enemies "May be tricked sued, or lied to, or destroyed." Thechurch acknowledges some of its officials, including Hubbard's ownwife, did harass people years ago, but they were convicted, and thepractice has stopped. Defectors say it still goes on.
Vicki Aznaran:They hire private detectives to harass people. They run covertoperations. You name it, they have never quit doing it. It would like--They would have to quit being Scientology if they quit doing that.
Sawyer: Vicki Aznaran is a former high-ranking church official wholost a power struggle with David Miscavige over control of the churchafter Hubbard's death. She is presently suing the church and claimsshe heard Miscavige order attacks on troublemakers.
Aznaran:He said that we will use public people, we'll send them out to thedissidents' homes, have them, their homes, broken into, have thembeaten, have things stolen from them, slash their tires, break theircar windows, whatever. And this was carried out and was being carriedout at the time I left.
Sawyer: Church officials vigorously deny all the charges, and call thesecritics nothing more than guppies trying to annoy a whale.
Jentzsch: You look at this. We get hit, we expand, we get hit, we expand, weget hit, we expand, we get hit, we expand. I mean, I don't want tosay the obvious. You hit us, we'll grow.
Sawyer: Scientology, they say, is growing by leaps and bounds, and forcritics and church defectors, that is precisely the problem. This isForrest Sawyer for "Nightline."
Koppel: Joining us live tonight is David Miscavige, whose formal title ischairman of the board of the Religious Technology Center, theorganization which manages Dianetics and Scientology. Mr. Miscavigetook over as the head of Scientology in 1987 following the death ofthe church's founder, L. Ron Hubbard. You've been sitting here verypatiently for the first 15 minutes. It's your turn. We're going totake a short segment here to talk, and then we'll take a break, andthen we've got the rest of the program to talk. Where would you liketo pick up on what many in our audience, I suspect, have seen for thefirst time about the Church of Scientology?
Miscavige: Yeah, well, I think-- You know, I guess the first thing I would liketo take up is the fact that the intro piece-- There's no questionthat there's some controversy surrounding Scientology, but if youwant to look at what the real controversy is, there's been storieslike this one that we saw here for the past 40 years, and yet duringthat time period Scientology's continued to grow. In fact, it's 25times larger today than it was in 1980. I would just like to take upa few of the falsehoods that are in there, because I think thisexplains a lot why you have the controversy. I don't know thatScientology lends itself so well to the press. In this instance, wedid agree that we would have your correspondents come in, and infact, he did have unlimited access to the church. But then you get apiece like this. For instance, something that isn't mentioned inthere is that every single detractor on there is part of a religioushate group called Cult Awareness Network and their sister groupcalled American Family Foundation. Now, I don't know if you've heardof these people, but it's the same as the KKK would be with theblacks. I think if you interviewed a neo-Nazi and asked them totalk about the Jews, you would get a similar result to what you havehere. The thing I find disingenuous is that it's not commented upon,and yet, in fact, your correspondent Forrest and Deanna Lee wereaware of this fact. And not only that, that is the source of wherethey, they received these people to talk to. They didn't find themrandomly--
Koppel: Well, if I may just interrupt for a moment: You realize there's alittle bit of a problem in getting people to talk critically aboutthe Scientology because, quite frankly, they're scared.
Miscavige: Oh, no, no, no, no.
Koppel: Well, I'm telling you--
Miscavige: No, no, no, no. Let me tell you--
Koppel: I'm telling you people are scared.
Miscavige: Let me explain something to you. The most disingenuous thing isthat you have those people. Now, let's not give the American publicthe wrong impression, that these are people that randomly were pulledin from around the world and that they decided to talk againstScientology. Those people aren't scared and they've been loudlyspeaking in the press. You showed me a book you had before this showthat has many detractors, same ones, so they're not reallyfrightened. That's a good story--
Koppel: Actually, that wasn't a book, it was a collection of articles--
Miscavige: Let me finish.
Koppel: …that has been written about you and the church.
Miscavige: But the same people were quoted.
Koppel: No. What I was saying is the reason, perhaps, that we only hear fromthose folks is that there are a lot of other people who might beconsidered detractors of the church, and they, who do not belong toany organization, are, quite frankly, afraid to come out and speakpublicly.
Miscavige: Well, I'm sorry, no, I'm sorry, that story doesn't hold water,because I'll tell you, from my perspective, the person gettingharassed is myself and the church. Let me give you an example. We didmake access possible for Forrest. That isn't to say that he tookadvantage of it, Ted. For instance, the subject of money comes up, itcomes up routinely, and I'm sure we might bring it up later on inthis show. But I, in fact, had the highest contributors of Scientologygathered up so that Forrest could interview them, to ask them whythey gave money to the church and how much they had, and believe me,it's larger figures than these people are talking about. He told mehe didn't have time. I said, "Please, I mean, they're here." He said,"No, I don't have time, I don't want to see 'em." I offered for himto go down to our church headquarters in Clearwater, Fla., where2,000 parishioners are there at any given time from all over theworld. In other words, he would get a cross-selection of peoplefrom Germany, England, California, Florida, Spain, Italy, you nameit. Didn't want to go, didn't have time. So to represent also thatthis is what the church puts forth isn't so. Here's what I find wrongand here's what I find the common mistake the media makes. I can giveyou a hundred thousand Scientologists who will say unbelievablypositive things about their church to every one you add on there, andI not only am upset about those people not being interviewed, theyare, too. And the funny thing about it, and why you find this notreally being that one who speaks in the media, is because not justmyself, any Scientologist, will open up a paper, will watch thisprogram, they're probably laughing right now, saying, "That isn'tScientology." That's what makes media. Media is controversy. Iunderstand that. And if you really looked at the big picture ofwhat's happening in Scientology, it isn't really controversial,certainly to a Scientologist.
ABC News Live
24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events