Leah Remini calls the call the allegations against Haggis "suspect" due to the director's severed ties with the Church of Scientology
Leah Remini is defending Paul Haggis after the director was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women.
In an open letter published on the personal blog of Scientology critic Mike Riner, Remini’s co-host on A&E series Scientology and the Aftermath, the two call the allegations against Haggis “suspect” due to the director’s severed ties with the Church of Scientology.
Earlier this month, three women anonymously accused Haggis — a former Scientologist — of sexual misconduct. Two of the accusations included rape. Haggis has denied all allegations. (One of his accusers has since penned a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, explaining why she’s remained anonymous.)
“Those who accuse without going to law enforcement, those who seek hush money to keep their stories secret, those who make accusations to the media anonymously – they are suspect,” wrote Remini, 47, and Rinder. “And when the target of these tactics is someone who is a prominent critic of Scientology, it is very suspect.”
Remini and Rinder also assert that Scientology collects data about its members during their time with the church and uses the information against them if they rebel.
“Only a Scientologist can understand the pressure one feels to offer up even the slightest thing that the Scientology organization might consider a transgression of THEIR mores,” read the letter. “This information is used against anyone who departs Scientology and dares speak their mind. This is not imaginary. There is a documented history of such things. When someone is a declared an ‘enemy’ by Scientology, they are fair game.”
In response to the letter, a representative for the Church of Scientology said in a statement to PEOPLE, “Leah Remini, Paul Haggis and Mike Rinder have predictably thrown up a reprehensible smokescreen to turn horrific sexual assault and rape allegations made against Haggis by four women into a bigoted attack about their former religion.”
“To be clear, the Church has never met the women in this case nor their attorneys and knows nothing about the accusations against Haggis other than what has appeared in press reports and public court documents,” it continued. “Today’s transparent ploy by Remini and Rinder fails to mention that plaintiff Haleigh Breest’s court papers definitively state that ‘Ms. Breest has nothing to do with Scientology. Being a critic of Scientology does not give a man permission to rape.’ Furthermore, Remini and Rinder conveniently fail to mention that the three additional women making allegations against Haggis all are on record to the Associated Press as stating that they are not Scientologists—as if an alleged rape victim’s religion should matter—and that these allegations have nothing to do with the Church. Not only are Remini and Rinder mouthing a debunked conspiracy theory that was dead on arrival when they posted today’s rant, they further offend countless other alleged victims with stunning insensitivity.”
Haggis left the church in 2009 after 35 years as a member. The director made an appearance on Remini’s Scientology series last year, where he openly discussed his departure from the church.
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“We expect the next ‘revelations’ about Paul Haggis in this campaign to destroy him to be based on information culled from his Scientology files in the form of more ‘anonymous’ accusers hiding behind a lawyer who will never have to disclose who is paying their bill,” write Remini and Rinder.
Remini famously left Scientology in 2013 and has since dedicated her career to exposing what she claims to a system of lies and abuse within the church.
While the pair acknowledged the risk of defending someone who has been accused of sexual misconduct in the midst of the #MeToo movement, Remini and Rinder said their dedication to the truth outweighed any controversy that may follow.
“In this time of heightened awareness of sexual predators, it is easy to remain quiet when an injustice is being perpetrated for fear of being tarred as politically incorrect,” they wrote. “But more important to us than being politically correct is standing up for what we believe is right.”