UK Tabloid Retracts Scientology Story

Andrew Morton “has not received threats”

Sunday Express gossip columnist Adam Helliker, 11 November (no longer on-line):

FORMER tabloid royal reporter Andrew Morton – author of revealing books on Princess Diana, Monica Lewinsky and Madonna – has run into serious trouble with his latest subject, Hollywood star Tom Cruise.

…”I have received threats from the Scientologists and things have become pretty heavy – to the extent that it’s almost more than my lawyers can ­handle,” Morton tells me.

“I’ve sold my flat and I’m not telling anyone where I’m moving to. I intend to disappear for a while.”

The Daily Express, yesterday:

…It is now accepted that this is not true and that Mr Morton has not received threats or that he was forced to sell his flat and move underground to write the book.

We apologise to the Church of Scientology and its members for the embarrassment and distress caused by the article.

Rumours that Morton has had to go “underground” actually predate the Helliker piece, and appeared on Lainey Gossip in October. However, in July Morton told Metro that “So far, I haven’t been harassed but I’m sure that will come.”

It should be recalled, though, that other writers have made claims of harassment while researching the Church of Scientology. A 1991 Quill article gives some background:

When British author Russell Miller wrote a critical biography of Hubbard in 1988, an anonymous caller to police implicated Miller in the unsolved axe slaying of a South London private eye. Miller was interrogated by Scotland Yard, which later admitted the investigation was a waste of time that had “caused Mr. Miller some embarrassment.”

…When the St. Petersburg Times planned a review of another biography that was critical of Hubbard, it received a letter from a Scientology attomey threatening to sue the newspaper.

“We have evidence that your paper has a deep-seated bias against the Church and that you intend to hit the Church hard with this review,” the letter from Los Angeles attomey Timothy Bowles stated….”lf you forward one of his lies you will find yourself in court facing not only libel and slander charges, but also charges for conspiracy to violate civil rights. If you publish anything at all on it, you may still find yourself defending charges in court in light of what we know about your intentions. We know a whole lot more about your institution and motives than you think.”

…But the biggest horror story belongs to New York author Paulette Cooper.

Cooper, who wrote a scathing 1972 book entitled The Scandal of Scientology, was indicted on charges of making bomb threats against the church. The charges were eventually dismissed after authorities discovered the church had obtained stationery she had touched and used it to forge the bomb threats.

As far back as 1967, Peter Horden MP complained that “every newspaper which so much as mentions Scientology is served with a writ for libel.” As well as journalists, the late sociologist of religion Roy Wallis also had a remarkable account of harassment  from the Church while writing his doctoral thesis.

Helliker was profiled by the Independent back in June 2005:

Adam Helliker, 45, described by a jealous rival as ‘the David Brent of gossip’. Cast in the [Nigel] Dempster mould, this inquisitive Somerset group captain’s son has a photographic memory for stories. Despite having no slush fund to reward tipsters he produces exclusives such as Prince William’s doomed romance with Jecca Craig and Jade Jagger stealing Kate Moss’s boyfriend Dan Macmillan…

Scoop: Zara Phillips breaking up with boyfriend Richard Johnson.

Don’t mention: Princess Diana’s address book and royal souvenir hawkers.

The “Diana’s address book” fiasco is explained in this 2004 Guardian story:

An exclusive tale about Princess Diana’s missing address book, a US dealer in royal memorabilia and a forged letter of authentication might have been a natural choice for a tabloid front page.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper, however, kept its story well away from the opening pages yesterday and saved the most peculiar detail to the last paragraph: the fact that it had sacked its diary editor for allegedly being the intermediary who benefited from the mysterious transaction…

According to the Telegraph – another former employer – Helliker said at the time that he was “very angry – they have defamed me”. But surely the Express is now defaming either him or Morton by inferring that one of them was the source of a untrue Scientology story?

(Hat tip: Cult News Network)

One Response

  1. […] I looked at the history of Church of Scientology legal threats (and worse) against journalists back in November. […]

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