Last week, the legal team for Haleigh Breest, an entertainment publicist suing filmmaker Paul Haggis for allegedly sexually assaulting her in his New York apartment in 2013, issued a subpoena that invoked Donald Trump’s $130,000 hush payment to adult star Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 presidential election.
Breest’s team served the subpoena to the Hollywood talent agency CAA, which represents Haggis, and is seeking any and all documents and communications concerning the Crash director’s lawsuits and legal settlements, arguing that this is necessary “because settlement agreements involving sexual misconduct are often written to conceal their true subject matter.” Haggis, for his part, denied being involved in any such sexual misconduct settlement agreements, and his legal team has contended that this demand for correspondences is meant to cause his “total ruination.” They also referenced Haggis’ status as a Scientology whistleblower, claiming, “Such tactics call into question whether [Breest] has obtained outside funding for her litigation from parties with an interest in harming [Haggis].”
This isn’t the first time Haggis has suggested that the Church of Scientology, who’s had it out for him since he became the first high-profile celebrity to defect from (and speak out against) the controversial religion, is somehow involved with the sexual-assault allegations against him—which now includes Breest and three other accusers who have chosen to remain anonymous.
Haggis, who says he was forced to take preemptive legal action against Breest late last year after she allegedly threatened to go forward with the rape accusation if she didn’t receive a $9 million payout, has claimed that their encounter was consensual, and according to a legal filing, “also questions whether Scientology has any role here, which he notes has been attacking him for years with false accusations.” (A judge has since dismissed Haggis’ suit.)
The filmmaker’s notion that the Church of Scientology might be behind the sexual-assault allegations against him was supported by his fellow Scientology whistleblowers (and pals) Leah Remini and Mike Rinder, co-hosts of the A&E reality series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.
In a statement issued to the media, Remini and Rinder wrote, in part: “We expect the next ‘revelations’ about Paul Haggis in this campaign to destroy him to be based on information culled from his Scientology files in the form of more ‘anonymous’ accusers, hiding behind a lawyer who will never have to disclose who is paying their bill.”
It continued: “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, it is very suspect.”
Through her attorneys at Emery Celli, Breest issued a statement in a legal filing saying, in part, “Rather than confront his own misconduct, Mr. Haggis writes about Scientology. Why? Ms. Breest has nothing to do with Scientology. Being a critic of Scientology does not give a man permission to rape.” One of Haggis’ anonymous accusers, meanwhile, denied having any connection to Scientology in a Hollywood Reporter op-ed, writing, “[Haggis] has also attempted to discredit his accusers, alleging we are working together to profit from him and are acting on behalf of the Church of Scientology, of which Haggis is a prominent defector. This is offensive and false. I do not know and have not spoken or met with any of his other accusers. I do not stand to make anything. I want nothing from Haggis other than that the truth be known. I have no connection with Scientology or its practitioners. For those people—including actress Leah Remini—who have stated publicly that all of Haggis’ accusers are part of a Scientology conspiracy, shame on you. Isn’t now the time to be listening to your sisters?”
Remini and Haggis would not provide further comment to The Daily Beast on the Scientology accusations, while Breest’s lawyers maintain that “the claim is absurd.” The Church of Scientology issued a lengthy letter denying that they have any connection to Breest or Haggis’ other accusers, writing, “No. Ms. Breest has never been a member of the Church or involved with the Church in any capacity. Nor is the Church involved in or financing these allegations against Paul Haggis, a false claim made by Paul Haggis, Leah Remini and Mike Rinder.” They also, as is their wont, alleged that Remini and Rinder were “expelled from the Church” for “egregious ethical lapses,” though wouldn’t elaborate further.
Rinder, in an interview with The Daily Beast, expanded on why he thinks Scientology is behind the sexual-assault allegations against Haggis and has attached itself to the #MeToo movement to silence its critics, citing the Church’s history of attacking its critics, and his daughter Taryn Teutsch’s recent campaign against him—wherein she created a website accusing the former Scientology senior executive of assaulting her mother, Cathy Bernardini, and is demanding his firing from Aftermath. (Teutsch and Bernardini are Scientologists, and are “disconnected” from Rinder.)
“Now, how do I know about the #MeToo movement? Take a look at what they did to me. My daughter runs around trying to attach herself to the #MeToo movement to try to get me fired by Disney,” Rinder tells me. “And that is an exact parallel—and an exact pattern—of what Scientology uses to try and destroy its critics. And I look at what happened with Paul Haggis, the timing of it, the facts that surrounded the circumstances (that he was the one that reported the shakedown effort from this woman, that she tried to blackmail him to begin with, that he went to the authorities), and I went, you know, this is just too much. I’ve seen too many of these things in my personal view, and with my personal expertise in Scientology.”
While he says he doesn’t believe Breest was ever a Scientologist, Rinder argues, “I don’t know if that changes anything. You can get all sorts of people to do all sorts of things.”