The Church of Scientology officially responded to the Vanity Fair expose claiming that Tom Cruise was part of a wife-auditioning process, accusing the magazine of "shoddy journalism, religious bigotry and potential legal liability" in a scathing eight-page letter written last month, before the magazine released the October cover story.
Vanity Fair published the shocking piece alleging that the Church of Scientology conducted a secret wife-auditioning process to find Cruise, its highest-profile member, a suitable mate. Vanity Fair special correspondent Maureen Orth reported that in 2004, Scientology began the wife-auditioning process by recruiting actresses in the Scientology community. Nazanin Boniadi, an Iranian-born, London-raised actress, was reportedly the one selected during this particular screening, and dated Cruise from November 2004 to January 2005.
The story alleged that Cruise's ex-wife Nicole Kidman was an enemy of the church and his ex-girlfriend Penelope Cruz was a "dilettante," and also detailed the actor's inability to "entice a number of beautiful, well-known actresses" to become his future wife, including Sofia Vergara and Scarlett Johansson, noted The Hollywood Reporter.
Cruise's marriage to Katie Holmes ended after the actress filed for divorce June 28. The couple reached a settlement, in private, just two weeks later.
Jeffrey K. Riffer of the law firm Elkins Kalt Weintraub Reuben Gartside LLP fired off the verbose letter backing the Church of Scientology to Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.
"We are writing regarding your, your editor’s and reporter’s shoddy journalism, religious bigotry and potential legal liability arising out of Vanity Fair’s upcoming story about the Tom Cruise divorce," begins the letter. "Significantly, while Maureen Orth was preparing her story, Vanity Fair ignored its staff and contributors who have firsthand knowledge of Mr. Cruise and of Mr. Miscavige and who would burden her story with the truth."
The letter criticizes Orth's credibility, claiming that when she first contacted the church she was unclear about her intentions and said her expose would only cover Cruise's divorce from Holmes. A follow-up of 32 questions revealed "the tabloid nature of the article" as well as Orth's "reckless disregard of the truth and her religious bigotry."
Riffer calls Vanity Fair's story about the Cruise wife-auditioning process, headed by Shelly Miscavige, wife of Scientology chief David Miscavige, "false and contemptible."
"The allegations she forwards are akin to asking the Pope if he threw poison in the wine before failing to bless the Holy Communion during the Easter service. Your apostate sources know that is the nature of what they are insinuating and Ms. Orth, who hasn't the vaguest clue about the practice of Scientology, has been duped into forwarding their anti-Scientology agenda."
Continuing, "Ms. Orth appears to have only gleaned her information from fringe hate sites and their webmasters. If she were writing a story about a Sikh religious leader, would she first latch onto the sites of white supremacists, then interview their most virulent and violent members and follow it up with mere 'fact check' questions to the Sikhs themselves? At the eleventh hour? And refuse to give the names of her white supremacist sources? The scenario is no different here."
The letter also threatens legal action against the magazine.
"The disgraceful allegations Vanity Fair apparently plan to publish about Mr. Miscavige are defamatory," it reads. "If Vanity Fair goes forward with publication of such defamatory allegations, now that it is on notice that the story is false, the stain on its reputation will lastlong after any reader even remembers the article. The sting of the jury verdict will last longer still; far longer than any pleasure from racing to publish a poorly researched and sourced story."
Cruise's lawyer Bert Fields has also spoken out against the Vanity Fair article.
In a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter earlier this month, Fields said: "Vanity Fair's story is essentially a rehash of tired old lies previously run in the supermarket tabloids, quoting the same bogus 'sources.' It’s long, boring and false.”
Previously, Scientology questioned whether Orth paid for a source's "cooperation" in "corroborating" its article. However, Vanity Fair has continued to stand by her reporting.
"We absolutely stand by Maureen Orth's story," spokeswoman Beth Kseniak told CNN in a statement. "Vanity Fair has never paid sources and never would."