How Leah Remini Helped Danny Masterson’s Rape Accusers Be Heard
The Scientology whistleblower explains how Masterson’s accusers fought for justice and the role the Church of Scientology allegedly played in intimidating them into silence.
On June 17, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office announced that actor Danny Masterson had been charged with three counts of rape.
Masterson, 44, best known as the star of That ’70s Show, is accused of forcibly raping three women at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003. He is facing 45 years to life in prison if convicted. (Masterson’s attorney said, “Mr. Masterson is innocent, and we’re confident that he will be exonerated when all the evidence finally comes to light and witnesses have the opportunity to testify.”)
It has been a long journey for Masterson’s accusers—one that began, in part, with help from Leah Remini, the former Scientologist turned whistleblower.
In March 2017, journalist Tony Ortega broke the news on The Underground Bunker that the LAPD was investigating Masterson for “at least three alleged cases of rape or sodomy of women who were also Scientologists and who claim they were pressured by the Church of Scientology not to contact police or go public with their accusations.” (Masterson is a prominent member of—and big fundraiser for—the Church of Scientology.) Eight months later, Yashar Ali reported in The Huffington Post that, despite “overwhelming” evidence, the case against Masterson had stalled. A few weeks after that, one of Masterson’s rape accusers, Chrissie Carnell Bixler, came forward to The Daily Beast to accuse Netflix, which was airing Masterson’s show The Ranch at the time, of being complicit for continuing to work with him; later, Masterson’s accusers told The Daily Beast about how the Church of Scientology allegedly pressured them into not pursuing justice against Masterson.
“For me, what Netflix has done feels like a continuation of how the Church of Scientology made me feel when I reported my rape to them, as well as how Danny Masterson made me feel when I would beg him for an apology, an explanation, anything. I was made to feel unimportant. I was made to feel like I didn’t matter,” wrote Bixler.
Masterson was ultimately phased out of The Ranch, though Netflix still chose to air an entire half-season of the show featuring Masterson in June 2018.
Several of his accusers initially reached out to Remini, then host of the A&E series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, for advice—given her experience with Scientology and its alleged intimidation tactics, known as “Fair Game.” She encouraged them to go to the authorities and met with the LAPD herself to emphasize to them that, as she told me, “these victims deserve to be heard.”
“We try not to make it about us,” Remini tells The Daily Beast, referring to herself and her collaborative partner Mike Rinder, an ex-Scientology spokesman/senior executive. “This is something that came to us because the survivors were not getting the help that we felt most victims should receive because of Scientology, and because there is a relationship between the Hollywood division of the LAPD and Scientology. They don’t even try to hide it. There was a Scientology kiosk in the Hollywood precinct. They go to Scientology events and take pictures, and Capt. Cory Palka [now commander] is very friendly with Scientology. Tony Ortega did a story about that, where emails were released between them showing their cozy relationship. This has been going on for years.” (The Church of Scientology and the LAPD did not respond to requests for comment.)
Indeed, since 1995, the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre in Hollywood, California, has served as a fundraising partner for the Hollywood PD’s chapter of the Police Activities League (PAL), hosting lavish events to raise money for the cops. One of the Scientologists who has emceed these PAL fundraisers is none other than Danny Masterson.
“We felt a responsibility to get this [Masterson] story out there so the public knew what was really going on, and that these victims would have at least received their day in court if it wasn’t for Scientology,” Remini explains. “Mike and I were trying to get law enforcement to answer for why and what happened. We met with the DA, we met with several police departments—in Clearwater, Florida, and Riverside County, California—and it proved to be very difficult to get them to see why their connection and their relationship is problematic for the victims of Scientology. We’ll continue to expose that.”
Remini and Rinder taped an episode of Scientology and the Aftermath featuring Masterson’s accusers, but A&E declined to air the episode following a Scientology smear campaign, The Daily Beast reported. After it was shelved, they taped a brand-new town hall-style episode with Remini and Rinder speaking to Masterson’s accusers that served as the series finale.
“We would love to have aired what we shot and put together, but that isn’t just a matter of Scientology’s threats,” says Rinder. “It’s also a matter of affecting the criminal case. There were a lot of factors that went into that and what ended up happening.”
With Scientology and the Aftermath off the air, and most Americans trapped in their homes, Remini and Rinder have decided to launch a podcast, Scientology: Fair Game—focused on the Church of Scientology’s alleged “Fair Game” practice, wherein they attempt to bully their critics into not speaking out.
“It’s not just [the Church of] Scientology. You have celebrity Scientologists who are trained and taught to abide by these ‘Fair Game’ policies, which is to discredit anybody speaking ill of Scientology,” says Remini. “You’re being Fair Game’d. This is what they do. It doesn’t matter who you are. This is what the policy says to do, so they don’t know anything other than to do that, because L. Ron Hubbard’s policies are law. It’s not only difficult, it’s forbidden, so the survivors of Danny Masterson’s abuse are being Fair Game’d. They’re being followed, they’re being harassed—everything that ‘Fair Game’ says to do.”
Masterson is currently free on $3.3 million bail. He is set to be arraigned Sept. 18.