Scientologists wanted me out, claims journalist sacked by Fox

Travolta and Cruise deny pushing for the dismissal of entertainment reporter

In a conspiracy as contorted as the plot of one of their action movies, Tom Cruise and John Travolta have been accused of persuading Rupert Murdoch's Fox News to sack an influential entertainment journalist who had a history of criticising the Church of Scientology.

Roger Friedman, who was dismissed in April after a decade covering the TV channel's Hollywood beat, announced yesterday that he intended to sue his former employer for wrongful termination, claiming that they fired him so that Cruise and Travolta would sign on to future Fox movie projects.

The lawsuit, which Friedman bullishly described as a "slam-dunk," promises to shed light on the close ties between powerful Scientologists and film studios that rely on their co-operation to get expensive movies off the ground. It is due to be filed in Manhattan later this week.

Cruise and Travolta have formally denied any connection to the sacking and Fox insists that the journalist was dismissed for writing a column on his "411" blog which encouraged readers to download an illegally pirated version of the 20th Century Fox blockbuster X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

In an interview with the New York Daily News, Friedman, who was a regular talking head on Fox News and wrote a blog on its website that was read by more than 50 million people, claimed that the official grounds were an elaborate cover story.

Though he was formally given the heave-ho for "promoting piracy" the journalist claims he was actually sacked to help Fox build stronger links with the Church of Scientology, of whom he had been a longstanding critic.

At the time of Friedman's dismissal, Fox was involved in protracted (and subsequently successful) negotiations to hire Cruise to appear in the forthcoming romantic comedy Wichita, alongside Cameron Diaz.

Friedman, now at The Hollywood Reporter, also claimed that Travolta's wife, Kelly Preston, had earlier attempted to get him fired last August after they became involved in a heated argument at the funeral of a mutual friend, the late actor and soul singer Isaac Hayes. After bumping into Preston (who, like Hayes and her husband, is a fervent Scientologist) Friedman said he was loudly berated for criticising Scientology in his column. "She called me a religious bigot," Friedman says.

Later, Friedman alleges, Preston orchestrated a meeting between senior Fox executives Roger Ailes and John Moody and the communications department of the Church of Scientology in an effort to have his longstanding criticisms of the church and its most prominent members reined in.

Though Friedman has yet to produce any factual evidence beyond his own recollection to back up his version of his sacking in April, he does appear to have been hard done by. The column for which he was sacked was read and approved by at least four of his superiors.

"It's outrageous that Rupert Murdoch made a decision to fire Roger after four of Roger's editors and superiors reviewed his column and found it very good," said Friedman's attorney, Martin Garbus.

"In falsely claiming Roger engaged in piracy, they attempted to destroy the reputation of a fine journalist. I've seen how Scientology intimidates even the most powerful media. That seems to be what happened here."

Asked about the specifics of Friedman's allegations, Fox News declined to comment, while an attorney for Cruise said it was "utterly false" that the actor had sought his dismissal.

Preston's lawyer, Martin Singer, said that Friedman's claim was "absurd and ridiculous".

"He was terminated just days after [his Wolverine column]. It is outrageous to try to blame my client ... on the basis of something that supposedly took place eight months earlier."

Friedman on Scientology: 'Believing in this means believing in aliens'

* "One possible theory for why the careers of Scientologists tend to go south is that the famous actors, such as Jenna Elfman or Juliette Lewis, 'get so involved in thinking only they can save the world' that the sect overwhelms them ... John Travolta has headlined a series of flops."

* "[Tom Cruise] is so consumed by Scientology at this point that he seems to have no awareness of the ridicule he's subject to ... Cruise is totally subsumed into the Hubbard world."

* "To believe in this religion means also subscribing to a belief in aliens, for one thing. And by aliens I mean creatures from other planets and galaxies ... [Looking at] the history of Scientology inventor L Ron Hubbard, one can only conclude that Cruise and Travolta share these same ideals."

* "Katie Holmes' parents must be beside themselves since their daughter joined the group."

* "Scientology is notable for recruiting stars at low points in their careers or personal lives, preying on uncertainty, instability or just plain fear by promising to fix life issues."

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)

comedy

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own