Empty Threats: Church of Scientology Legal Threat Letters to Vanity Fair and CNN

1. August 16, 2012: Church of Scientology attorney Jeffrey K. Riffer of Elkins, Kalt, Weintraub, Reuben, Gartside LLP, sent a legal threat letter to Graydon Carter, Editor, Vanity Fair Magazine. The threat was an attempt to kill a story about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Vanity Fair ignored the threat. Written by Maureen Orth, What Katie Didn’t Know appeared in the October 2012 edition of Vanity Fair.

2. January 21, 2013: Church of Scientology attorney Jeffrey K. Riffer of Elkins, Kalt, Weintraub, Reuben, Gartside LLP, sent a legal threat letter to David C. Vigilante, Senior Vice President & Associate General Counsel of Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc. as counsel for CNN. The threat was an attempt to kill Anderson Cooper’s 360 piece on the culture of physical violence inside the Church of Scientology, particularly  as described in Lawrence Wright’s book Going Clear.  CNN ignored the threat. Inside the Church of Scientology aired on January 23, 2013.

8 comments

  1. Hell hath no fury like an ecclesiastical leader scorned, eh?

    I don’t know about the tone ordinarily used by lawyers when sending threatening letters in the USA, but in the UK, I suspect this pair of intemperate rants would’ve been consigned straight to the ‘Loonies Writing In Green Ink’ file-and-forget drawer of any publisher or broadcaster worth their salt. That both Messrs. Carter and Vigilante evidently did just that, gives me renewed hope for the mainstream media.

    Here we very probably have the authentic voice of His Ecclesiastical Self-Importance, David Miscavige himself, pure, unalloyed, straight from the self-appointed Source. Note the finer points: the ill-informed autodidact’s use of big words, of which he never quite knows the right definition—dimwit David plainly doesn’t practice as L Ron preached, and use a dictionary to check his M.U.’s. This manifest ignorance is only reinforced by the stupid grammatical mistakes that litter both letters; elementary errors that even the most incompetent lawyer would never make in drafting a piece of correspondence—but which a half-educated ignoramus with a tin ear for English often will.

    Then there’s the tone: one of injured vanity that any mere mortal would dare to doubt, much less criticize, the all-holy Miscavige, mingled with an overweening sense of self-importance that’s so absurdly exaggerated, it defeats itself as it’s uttered:

    “Mr. Miscavige is one of the great individuals of our times … He is a man of impeccable character who has dedicated his life to his faith and to the service of its parishioners. He has improved, enriched or saved millions of lives.”

    This is not just over-the-top Scientology PR puffery; if it does originate with Miscavige himself, it’s unintentional proof of a very bad case of narcissistic personality disorder. The overall impression I get is of someone who wants to shout in print, but has been denied the use of capital letters and exclamation-marks because he’s too conceited and lazy to find out how the ‘Shift’ key works.

    As cretinously hectoring Jeremiads go, these letters aren’t quite up there with ‘Mein Kampf’, but they’re a fair testimony that Miscavige is already teetering on the brink of insanity.

    1. Mark, yours is a very literary and insightful reply. The drollery is simply exquisite. Examples:

      “Here we very probably have the authentic voice of His Ecclesiastical Self-Importance, David Miscavige himself, pure, unalloyed, straight from the self-appointed Source…

      “Then there’s the tone: one of injured vanity that any mere mortal would dare to doubt, much less criticize, the all-holy Miscavige, mingled with an overweening sense of self-importance that’s so absurdly exaggerated, it defeats itself as it’s uttered:

      ‘Mr. Miscavige is one of the great individuals of our times … He is a man of impeccable character who has dedicated his life to his faith and to the service of its parishioners. He has improved, enriched or saved millions of lives.'”

      “Injured vanity” is the reading item for Mr. Miscavige.

      Your summary says it all:

      “As cretinously hectoring Jeremiads go, these letters aren’t quite up there with ‘Mein Kampf’, but they’re a fair testimony that Miscavige is already teetering on the brink of insanity.”

      I share your conclusion. Moreover, it is very possible that Jeffrey Riffer simply gave David Miscavige some Elkins, Kalt, Weintraub, Reuben, Gartside LLP stationery, allowed him write whatever he wanted, and then signed it. Conversely, Riffer may have actually had to take dictation over the phone from Fleet Admiral Miscavige.

      1. Thanks for your most flattering appraisal, Jeffrey. I’d originally intended to go through both letters sentence by sentence, but very quickly concluded Shortarse Miscavige’s apoplectic splutterings just didn’t merit the effort; it would have been beyond endurance for both writer and reader.

        One small mercy: neither letter shows obvious traces of ‘Shermanspeak’ (phrases beginning with a redundant “hence”, “whereupon”, “with which” &c.) This sort of mind-numbing verbal ullage seems to be reserved for the species of mass-hypnotism that happens during the Dwarfenführer’s pseudo-public utterances at IAS events and the like—always assuming he can stir Dan Sherman out of his Curse Of Babel-induced trance in enough time.

        I prefer not to think too closely of how these missives were concocted: horrid visions of spittle-covered telephone handsets rise before the mind’s eye…

  2. Mark, I too had the same thought: A sentence by sentence deconstruction of both letters for the exact reason you stated: In these letters we “very probably have the authentic voice of His Ecclesiastical Self-Importance, David Miscavige himself, pure, unalloyed, straight from the self-appointed Source.”

    The importance of these two letters cannot be understated. Like Hubbard’s claim to fake war medals, a Ph.D., a Civil Engineering degree, etc. these two letters show David Miscavige arguing for personal achievements that never actually happened. For example, David Miscavige has never actually helped millions of people in impoverished nations; he is not a leading figure of our age; he is not a man of impeccable character.

    David Miscavige is a high school drop out. He is violent. He clawed his way to the top of the Scientology Cult by a series of ruthless machinations aided by equally ruthless non-Scientology lawyers who were in for a decades-long payday once they helped Miscavige purge his enemies and take over the reins of power. He won and there are many wealthy attorneys and thousands of impoverished or bankrupted former Sea Org and public members.

    David Miscavige has created great suffering and he is yet a vainglorious narcissistic being broken upon the wheel of cult history.

  3. Out of curiosity, who retracted the yellowed statements from the first letter? Was is like that when you received it, or did you make the choice to edit out portions, and if so, why?

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