An investigation into Scientology and Tom Cruise which was set to air this past Friday on the American television program 20/20 was removed from broadcast by ABC News. This is not the first time that ABC News has pulled an investigation into Scientology from airing on 20/20.
A press release published by ABC on Thursday announced the scheduled airing of the investigation. It described the program as "an in-depth look" by Elizabeth Vargas into the recent report on Tom Cruise and Scientology by journalist Maureen Orth for Vanity Fair in its October 2012 publication.
An analysis of the situation by Editor-in-Chief Tony Ortega of The Village Voice pointed out that in 2008, actor and former Scientologist Jason Beghe was interviewed by Elizabeth Vargas after he had flown to New York. Beghe recounted to Vargas his experiences within Scientology and his decision to cease activity in the organization.
However, this interview by Vargas was never shown on ABC.
Ortega noted, "Then, Friday night, ABC caved again, and this time much more publicly." He highlighted a television screenshot which displays clearly the description given by ABC for the 20/20 program scheduled for Friday: "20/20. New. 'Lovestyles of the Rich and Famous; The Camera Never Lies' Journalist Maureen Orth discusses her recent article in Vanity Fair on Scientology and actor Tom Cruise; celebrity".
According to Ortega, this was to be a significant investigation into Scientology. It was going to cover topics including the recent divorce of actress Katie Holmes from Tom Cruise, the role of minors within the Scientology organization, material on Scientology's chief David Miscavige, and controversy regarding the elite Scientology group known as the Sea Org. Ortega was himself interviewed as part of the investigation, which he was told would comprise an hour-long broadcast.
In addition to Ortega, former Scientologists Marc Headley and his wife Claire were interviewed by ABC News for the 20/20 piece which they were informed would be complemented by a news segment on Nightline. Claire told the camera of her two mandatory abortions she experienced while a member of the Sea Org in Scientology; Ortega reported that this interview moved the ABC television crew to tears.
Marc Headley confirmed that he had learned of the ABC News decision. In a post Friday to a legal fund webpage he set up to support his family with litigation costs from Scientology, he commented: "We just got word that both ABC 20/20 & Nightline have pulled the TV shows that were going to air tonight. It appears that someone at OSA is trying to sandbag the downstats over the next few weeks." OSA is an abbreviation for the Office of Special Affairs — a department within Scientology which has been compared to an intelligence agency that handles legal affairs and public relations. Downstat refers to a negative impact on statistics gathered by Scientology members of the Sea Org due to critical investigations of the organization by the media.