Although he wishes the venerable publication consulted him before publication, blogger Tony Ortega says that Graydon Carter‘s Vanity Fair got a lot right in its report about David Miscavige and his wife Shelly, the “First Lady of Scientology.”
In a post published Wednesday on his site Underground Bunker, Ortega compliments writer Ned Zeman for assembling in the publication’s latest issue what he calls a “rich history of the Miscaviges,” which characterizes their relationship as alternately volatile and chilly.
David Miscavige has been the leader of the Church of Scientology since 1987, one year after the death of founder L. Ron Hubbard. Vanity Fair’s latest profile of the Miscaviges, titled “Scientology’s Last Queen,” explores the mystery of Shelly’s whereabouts after she disappeared in 2007 – or even earlier, according to Ortega.
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Additionally, the piece chronicles the mysterious circumstances that led to her “fall from grace” within the organization, which Zeman hypothesizes occurred after Shelly took it upon herself to restructure the advisory board of Sea Org, a religious order comprised of the organization’s most dedicated members.
Ortega examines quotes collected by Zeman from former members of the church, characterizing David as alternately calculating and unpredictable. According to ex-Scientologist Mark Fisher, “[David] was kind of an asshole. He would try to buddy up with you… But he’d be quick to stab you in the back.”
Meanwhile, Ortega corrects details in Zeman’s portrayal of David, albeit in ways that are possibly more damning: rather than punching his own auditor – a person enlisted to increase spiritual awareness in members – he was apparently an auditor who punched the person he was supposed to be counseling.
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Ortega also condenses material from the Vanity Fair piece that examines David and Shelly’s relationship, quoting sources that said Shelly was as easily provoked as David, and yet the two demonstrated little if any public affection towards one another. Another former Church member, Marc Headley revealed, “I never, ever, ever saw them kiss.”
“I was there for 15 years,” he continued. “So I had plenty of opportunities to witness them together and never, ever saw them affectionate with each other… I’m talking about in a room with four other people. Informal. We’re all just chatting, and he isn’t touching her.”
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Then Ortega compares the reporting in Zeman’s story to his own, earlier piece, which contends that Shelly disappeared from public view in 2005, not 2007, when eyewitnesses allegedly spotted her at her father’s funeral. He adds that Zeman failed to include what he considers “one of the best details” that explains why she was allegedly taken to the Church of Spiritual Technology in the Lake Arrowhead area of California.
The article does not mark the first time that Vanity Fair has profiled Scientology or even David Miscavige. In 2012, Maureen Orth wrote a piece detailing an alleged audition session for young women for Tom Cruise to possibly date prior to his marriage to Katie Holmes. Following its publication, the organization responded with an eight-page letter decrying its reporting, its conclusions, and the integrity of its sources, and branding Orth a bigot as it defended Miscavige.
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