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Tony Ortega is a blogger and hatemonger bent on eking out an unsavory and sordid career gratuitously attacking Scientologists and the Scientology religion. A failed and disgraced journalist, Ortega maintains a stable of anti-Scientology attackers who supply him with falsehoods he gleefully regurgitates on his blog. Ortega’s stories are uniformly derogatory and uniformly hateful. That Ortega’s stories bear no resemblance to truth poses no problem. Ortega has evaded truth his entire misspent career.
In August 2002, New Times Los Angeles published a story written by an unknown writer named “Antoine Oman” that had Hollywood buzzing—“Survive This! The two girls kidnapped and raped in the Antelope Valley are set to go to Hollywood.” The piece claimed a forthcoming NBC series pilot would star a pair of recently abducted and brutally raped teenagers as hosts of their own primetime reality show, which also would feature real-life paroled repeat sex offenders.
After some digging by The Hollywood Reporter, the article was exposed as a fraud written by then-staffer Tony Ortega. Even as he was being outed as “Antoine Oman,” Ortega compounded the lie by writing yet another phony piece claiming the fictional writer had been fired for his transgression.
The Daily Cannibal, a media watchdog website, wrote:
“Tony Ortega takes two teenagers, already brutally raped by thugs, and editorially sodomizes them by appropriating their identities, putting lies in their mouths, and pimping them as shameless opportunists…”
Usually, such a vile, journalistically corrupt stunt is a career ender, especially when the perpetrator thinks it’s hilarious to spoof the heinous crime of teenage rape. But three years later, Ortega emerged in hateful character again, this time during a stint as managing editor of alternative newspaper The Pitch in Kansas City. Ortega wrote yet another fabricated story under still another bogus name, this time a cover story titled “Rebel Hell” by the fictional “Cesar Oman.” Written as a serious news story, Oman/Ortega claimed city records showed a Confederate gravesite was found during the building of a new arena.
But like Ortega’s stunt involving real-life raped teenagers, the gravesite story was a complete sham. The press secretary for then-Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt told the Kansas City Star she was “extremely disappointed that a publication purporting to be a news outlet would print a satirical, fantastical article and not identify it as such.” Columbia Journalism Review then weighed in, blasting Ortega’s stunt as inexcusable and arrogant:
Let us count the ways in which this is wrong. It was bad enough that the spoof took cheap shots at politicians, put words in their mouths, and betrayed readers’ trust at a time when the media’s credibility is at an ebb. But the official explanation—that The Pitch raised “Rebel Hell” just because it could—is simply inexcusable. Journalism has enough problems without inventing pranks that suck in both citizens and government officials. There is a place in journalism for both smart social commentary and an irreverent take on local buffoonery in office. But fooling your readers, and then hooting at them for being fooled, qualifies as neither.
Exposed as disdainful of the truth, and having laid waste to the reputations of two publications, Antoine Oman/Cesar Oman/Tony Ortega headed in 2007 to New York-based Village Voice where he was made editor-in-chief. It was during this time that Ortega became apologist-in-chief for Backpage.com, an online adult classified service owned then by the newspaper’s parent company, Village Voice Media.
Attorneys General in virtually every state considered Backpage.com the main cesspool of trafficking in prostitution, pimping and exploitation of teenage girls and runaways that frequently led to violence. “Where Pimps Peddle their Goods” read the headline of a scathing column about Backpage.com by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof:
Behind the tens of thousands of Backpage ads investigated by law enforcement, there are victims with stories much like “Alissa,” who over a two-year period “was sold to johns seven days a week, 365 days a year,” was transferred like chattel from pimp to pimp for roughly $10,000 per transaction, and had her jaw and ribs broken when she tried to escape.
But leave it to Ortega to ignore the human tragedy to act as Backpage.com’s attack dog. Ortega attacked a reporter at CNN for her exposé of child prostitution on the website, accusing the network of “junk science” and “mass paranoia,” criticizing the broadcast as a “sensationalistic piece” that was “manipulative” and part of “a semireligious crusade.”
Ortega conveniently omitted that the National Association of Attorneys General labeled Backpage.com as the nation’s top website for human trafficking. In October 2016, the founders of Backpage.com, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, were arrested for pimping conspiracy.
Over the next five years, Ortega also toxically damaged the credibility and quality of the Village Voice by turning his position as editor into a full-time anti-Scientology hate campaign. In 2011 and 2012, Ortega went completely off the rails. During a roughly 16-month period, he boasted of writing 465 anti-Scientology stories for the Voice before his forced departure in September 2012. Ortega descended lower and lower until he abandoned all pretense of journalistic integrity to passionately embrace the darkest and seediest side of hate blogging.
“[Ortega] was increasingly obsessed with Scientology and had neglected almost all of his editorial duties at the paper. Sometimes he wouldn’t even edit features.”
In discussing the reasons for Ortega’s departure, a former staffer at the Voice complained to the New York Observer that “[Ortega] was increasingly obsessed with Scientology and had neglected almost all of his editorial duties at the paper. Sometimes he wouldn’t even edit features.”
Likewise, Capitalnewyork.com called him “almost obsessive” about Scientology.
Sources told Capital that both the newsroom and the sales side of the Voice had become increasingly uncomfortable with the volume of Scientology coverage Ortega was churning out. “We thought it was destroying the Voice brand,” said one former staffer.
In the years since his departure from the Voice, Ortega’s career has plummeted to the desperate dregs consigned to the lowest forms of humanity. Ortega could not even hold down a job at The Raw Story. His part-time job for an obscure podcast for losers on TheLip.tv ended when that podcast went up in flames in June 2016. A failed outcast with nowhere to go, Ortega has been reduced to hate-blogging from his kitchen table in his pajamas while hawking tabloid tales to disgraceful outfits masquerading as newspapers, such as the National Enquirer. No lower can a pseudo-journalist go.
Today Ortega is a “professional” anti-Scientologist, playing to the few hatemongers who make up his anti-Scientology crowd while spewing hate and lies from the grassy knoll of the Internet, all the while begging for money via PayPal and from his hatemongers for his con. His blog is uniformly negative, playing to the hate-filled small crowd of commenters he attracts. He specializes in promoting the unsupported, inaccurate, defamatory statements of an unhinged band of miscreants, which he then feeds to other anti-religious bigots and publications. A man who will stoop to anything for money.
On December 14, 2015, Erin McMurtry, fueled by the hate speech of Ortega and his cohorts Lawrence Wright, Alex Gibney and Leah Remini, drove her car through the front of the Church of Scientology Austin and crashed through the space used as a nursery during the day. Miraculously no one was injured. Tony Ortega, however, reacted with callous insensitivity, posting the following on his weblog:
Car turns Austin Scientology org into a drive-in… anyone know where Larry Wright was last night?
But let the buyer of Ortega’s fiction beware. In May 2013, he falsely claimed that the Church doctored a photograph to add people to the crowd attending the opening of a Church in Portland, which was picked up by Mail Online, Washington Times and Portland Business Journal. All three took down their stories when the Church unequivocally proved Ortega’s information false. Still another Ortega tale, spun in July 2013 about a former Church spokesman and picked up by several news sites, resulted in almost instant withdrawal when proved false.
Truth remains a stranger to this hatemonger, whether published under his real or disgraced pseudonyms.