A&E Shelves Danny Masterson Sexual Assault Episode After Scientology Smear Campaign
An episode of A&E’s ‘Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath’ that focused on the rape allegations against actor Danny Masterson was set to air this month. But not anymore.
A long-awaited episode of A&E’s Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath that will focus on the sexual-assault allegations against actor Danny Masterson has been delayed again, following an allegedly fraudulent campaign against the series.
“We are experiencing classic Scientology attacks,” one of Masterson’s accusers who participated in the episode—and has chosen to remain anonymous—told The Daily Beast. “The week that the decision was made by the A&E network to move forward with the airing of the episode we did for Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, letters started circulating from various sources directed at A&E and Disney calling for the show to be taken off the air, declaring the show and its contributors to be bigots and many other hurtful names. And just this week we discover that at least one of these letters was in fact forged and done without authorization. We were put through these manufactured attacks. Scientology pushed and circulated these letters. The very organization that silenced us victims when we reported being violently raped, is still actively willing to use any means—there is seemingly no end to what they are willing to do just to insure our voices are taken from us.”
The episode, which features interviews with multiple accusers, was previously held due to the ongoing criminal investigation against Masterson. As Tony Ortega reported in 2017, “We’re told that earlier this year, Remini and her co-star Mike Rinder met with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, which expressed concerns about the episode airing while it is considering whether or not to file charges against Masterson. Remini, not wanting to jeopardize the investigation, asked A&E not to air the episode, and the network agreed.”
More recently, Ortega reported that the upcoming episode was set to air on February 18, writing, “A&E has decided that DA Jackie Lacey has had enough time to make up her mind about charges, and will air the episode.”
A&E told The Daily Beast, “The episode was actually never on the schedule for February 18. That was incorrect info that was circulating but we never announced that date. We don’t have an air date for the episode yet but I will definitely let you know as soon as we do.” But according to sources with knowledge of the production, they were previously assured that the episode would air in February.
“The campaign to silence us has sadly worked,” the accuser told The Daily Beast. “Our voices will again NOT be heard. And while Scientology carries on with its campaign, we are now processing the weak apology from A&E for grossly misleading us and letting us spend all these hours working with their production company these many weeks, only to be told, no. Your voices are to remain unheard.” She emphasized that she “truly appreciates Leah [Remini] and Mike [Rinder] and how much they’ve been fighting for all of us victims,” explaining that it’s been almost two years since she and the other participating accusers agreed to share their stories for the episode.
In the months before the Danny Masterson episode might have aired, the Scientology website STAND (Scientologists Taking Action Against Discrimination) has posted a number of letters in protest of A&E Networks and the Walt Disney Company. They posted a December 2018 letter on USC letterhead addressed to Disney CEO Bob Iger, from Rev. Dr. Cecil Murray of the Cecil Murray Center for Religion and Community Engagement. The Reverend Dr. Cecil Murray is the former pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church. According to the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture’s website, “During his 27 years as FAME’s pastor, [Rev.] Murray transformed a small congregation into a megachurch that brought jobs, housing and corporate investment into South Los Angeles neighborhoods.” The website continues, “Murray remains a vibrant force in the Los Angeles faith community through his leadership of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Civic Engagement.”
A 2011 L.A. Sentinel article shows the Reverend Dr. Cecil Murray participating in the dedication service for a new Church of Scientology Community Center. In a separate video, the Reverend states that, “I’ve had the pleasure of working with many members of the Church over the past three decades. And so I know that at last there are people with sufficient dedication, sufficient guts and sufficient fortitude to carry on and make this city and world into a better place.”
Given his involvement with Scientology, there was little reason to doubt the veracity of the December letter, in which the Reverend Dr. Cecil Murray allegedly wrote, “We need to allow other views than yet another hateful assault on peaceful religions.” The letter continued, “It is time sir, to act with courage and compassion—as would the great Walt Disney and many of his contemporaries—and not merely turn a blind eye to the discrimination and persecution by the few with a mouthpiece, against the many who diligently seek to follow their religious convictions.” (Rev. Murray did not respond to requests for comment for this story.)
Chrissie Carnell Bixler, one of Danny Masterson’s accusers, responded to the letter in a tweet, writing, “@USC @usccrcc & Cecil Murray are saying victims of rape, child molestation, & abuses that happened within #Scientology are not victims? We are a hate group, because we report these crimes & speak out about crimes committed on us by Scientology? Stop shaming/silencing victims!”
A woman named Robin Athlyn Thompson, a brand marketer, reached out to USC. In an interview, Thompson told Ortega, “I wrote to the brand protection office telling them that I’m a fellow marketer, a brand steward. I explained that their website prohibits the use of their brand without permission. And it was unbelievable to me that USC would take this kind of opinion.”
On Twitter, Thompson posted the response that she received from Brenda Maceo, the vice president of public relations and marketing at USC. Maceo informed Thompson that, “Reverend Murray has stated that he was not the author of the letter that was addressed to Mr. Iger on a discontinued letterhead. We are currently looking into the misuse of the university’s trademarks.”
The senior director of communications at USC, Lauren Bartlett, confirmed to The Daily Beast that the email from Maceo was authentic. She also forwarded USC’s official statement, which reads, in part, “The USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture and the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement has become aware of an effort to link the Centers, our past programs and affiliates to a campaign targeting A&E Networks programming. CRCC and the Murray Center has never taken any position on programming or made any demands on A&E Networks or the Walt Disney Company, and will not do so.”
In a statement to The Daily Beast, a Scientology representative wrote, “I have no knowledge of the internal discussions at USC. I was informed, however, that to avoid any misinterpretation, intentional or otherwise, that would be used to detract from his message, Rev. Murray’s office sent a new copy of his letter to Bob Iger on his own personal letterhead.”
A second letter attributed to Rev. Dr. Cecil Murray and addressed to Bob Iger, dated January 28, 2018, referenced the first, beginning, “I wrote you on 13 December 2018.” The January letter is not on USC letterhead. It continued, “The African-American community was aggrieved when they learned that you had not answered me. They felt that possibly you were slighting me. I could not persuade them otherwise as I have not heard from you.”
The Daily Beast previously reported on two 2004 letters from the mother of one of Masterson’s accusers, which were sent to Scientology officials including David Miscavige, the leader of the Church of Scientology. The letters include details about the alleged sexual assault, and accuse Scientology of failing to adequately address the allegations, instead subjecting her daughter to months of costly auditing intensives. The mother wrote that her daughter had been, “called a liar and under the threat of com ev and expulsions for months,” and was even pressured to meet with her accused rapist “because Danny wants to talk to her.”
“Where is the Justice code?” she asked. “Celebs are exempt from these codes?” Later in the January 2004 letter, she pleaded, “The fate of any young girl going anywhere near Danny lies in our hands, please help me.”
At the time of that Daily Beast report, the law firm Lavely & Singer sent a response on Danny Masterson’s behalf, writing, in part, “There is no new evidence. The ‘documents’ Ms. Zimmerman refers to were created by the mother of the woman who made these allegations against Danny Masterson…The LAPD has all of this this information and twice now has thoroughly investigated these claims, which Danny has disputed and denied from day one.”
The Church of Scientology denied that “it ever ignores any allegations of criminal behavior, especially at the expense of alleged victims,” telling The Daily Beast that, “The Church follows all laws and cooperates with law enforcement. Any statement or implication to the contrary is false.”
The aforementioned Masterson accuser who participated in the Scientology and the Aftermath episode told The Daily Beast that she spent weeks checking to see if the episode had been officially scheduled for the date that she had been told—February 18. “We have been in a holding pattern in this criminal case for over two years,” she explained. “For months we have been awaiting the decision on what criminal charges will be filed against the man that attacked each of us. Decision pending. That’s what we hear week after week from our lead detective and the DA.”
“It was nearly impossible to find the strength to show up in a room with all those lights and people,” she recalled. “Many hours and tears. So many. At times I had to stop filming to actually catch my breath. And now, we are told that the date that was given to us can’t be met. No air date set or time frame given.”
“Danny Masterson silenced us,” the anonymous accuser concluded. “Scientology silenced us. We each still found the courage to come forward and report and cooperate with all agencies investigating these heinous crimes. Now we are powerless and must sit and await action on the part of the District Attorney of Los Angeles. This case and our work with the appropriate law enforcement agencies has been going on without a break since 2016. On the approaching eve of our episode coming to the public, we are gutted and silenced once again. But this time it’s A&E network delivering the message.”