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Leah Remini and ‘Scientology’ co-host defend Paul Haggis amid sexual assault claims

Leah Remini defends director Paul Haggis amid sexual assault allegations
Leah Remini and her producing partner Mike Rinder released a lengthy statement on the allegations against Haggis.

Ex-Scientologist actor Leah Remini, along with her Scientology and the Aftermath co-host Mike Rinder, have written a lengthy open letter on the sexual assault allegations levelled against Canadian director Paul Haggis. The letter was posted to Rinder’s website, which regularly features posts about Scientology.

Remini’s and Rinder’s show seeks to bring down the religion, claiming it damages lives, families and livelihoods.

Haggis famously left the Church of Scientology in 2009 after 35 years in the religion. (Remini and Rinder left in 2013 and 2007, respectively.) He appeared in an episode of Aftermath in Season 2 of the show, which ended in the fall of 2017.

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In the first week of January, a civil lawsuit was filed against Haggis by three women who claim various forms of sexual misconduct against him, including rape.

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When asked about the new accusations, Christine Lepera, attorney for the 64-year-old screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby and Crash, said, “He didn’t rape anybody.”

“Mr. Haggis denies these anonymous claims in whole,” said Lepera in an email to ET Canada. “In a society where one of a person’s fundamental rights is the ability to confront an accuser, that right has now been eviscerated when it comes to anyone being charged in the press with any sort of sexual misconduct.”

“Notably, no one has reached out to anyone on Mr. Haggis’ team other than the press to report this,” she continued. “He views the fact that these reports appear to be spearheaded from the law firm representing [one of the accusers] Ms. Breest, as a further tactic to try to harm him and continue their effort to obtain money. Mr. Haggis also questions whether Scientology has any role here, which he notes has been attacking him for years with false accusations.”

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Remini and Rinder contend that Haggis deserves judgment after considering all evidence, and they clearly point to Scientology as a potential instigator for the Haggis charges. (Indeed, there are numerous stories about Scientology famously going to great lengths to silence its critics and defectors.)

“Paul Haggis deserves, based on his record as a gentleman and humanitarian, to be judged when all the evidence has been taken under penalty of perjury in a court of law,” wrote the co-hosts. “Because claims of anonymous accusers who have NOT gone to law enforcement are not credible.”

The co-hosts go on to explain how Scientology allegedly gathers information about its members.

“Like those of us who were scientologists [sic], we trusted and confided in our church to seek resolution for our shortcomings,” they continued. “What is different about scientology [sic] is the detailed records they maintain of everything you tell them. And beyond that, they conduct intense interrogations based on the idea that only when all specifics and details are disclosed can one find relief. The names, dates, and minute details of any indiscretions, and even thoughts, are all recorded.”
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“Only a scientologist [sic] can understand the pressure one feels to offer up even the slightest thing that the scientology [sic] organization might consider a transgression of THEIR mores. This information is used against anyone who departs scientology [sic] and dares speak their mind. This is not imaginary. There is a documented history of such things. When someone is declared an ‘enemy’ by scientology [sic], they are fair game.”

They then explain their thoughts on the accusations against Haggis, and how these “revelations” may be part of a campaign to bring down the director. They cite the accusers’ anonymity as a tried-and-true Scientology tactic.

“We expect the next ‘revelations’ about Paul Haggis in this campaign to destroy him to be based on information culled from his scientology [sic] files in the form of more ‘anonymous’ accusers, hiding behind a lawyer who will never have to disclose who is paying their bill,” they wrote. “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. And when the target of these tactics is someone who is a prominent critic of scientology [sic], it is very suspect.”

On Aftermath, Haggis said that Remini was the only person who didn’t ostracize him after he left Scientology.

“I’m sure they will put out a statement, again, how I’m a liar and what a terrible man I am,” said Haggis to The Hollywood Reporter after appearing on Aftermath. “How I do no work in Haiti [under his nonprofit Artists for Peace and Justice] or anything else. They boast all the great work they do in Haiti and how I do it for photo-ops or something. It’s just ludicrous and you don’t have to pay any attention to it.”

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Remini and Rinder address the current climate at the start of their letter, understanding that they may receive backlash from the masses. It’s not about “not believing” the women, but rather their distrust in Scientology that led them to write the letter and defend Haggis.

“There is plenty of reason to worry about defending anyone accused of sexual assault,” they wrote. “But the fear of consequences for speaking our truth has not held us back in the past and isn’t about to start now. We have avoided trial by media.”

The Church of Scientology has not commented on the charges against Haggis.

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None of these accusations has been proven in court, and Haggis has not been charged with any crime.