Times of San Diego writer Ken Stone’s “Inside Scientology’s New Church at Old San Diego Home” should have told a straight-ahead story about the November 19 opening of the new Church of Scientology in San Diego. But Stone and his editors laced the account with gratuitous anti-Scientology comments about the Church from obsessed extremist Tony Ortega.
Ortega is a hate blogger who specializes in posting anti-Scientology rants on an obscure blog. In September 2012 he was fired as editor at Village Voice for obsessively posting about Scientology instead of doing his job.
Also while at the Voice, Ortega was the attack dog for Backpage.com, trying to defend this human trafficking cesspool against a CNN exposé of child prostitution on the website. Subsequently, Backpage.com was labeled the nation’s top site for sex trafficking and in October 2016, founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were arrested and charged with conspiracy to pimp.
Ortega showed his true colors again when he posted a vile blog after a life-threatening hate crime in 2015 in which Ortega fan Erin McMurtry intentionally drove her car through the front of the Church of Scientology in Austin, Texas. Ortega’s response: “Car turns Austin Scientology org into a drive-in… anyone know where Larry Wright was last night?” Wright was co-producer of an anti-Scientology TV movie promoted by Ortega and watched by McMurtry.
Promoting fellow extremist Leah Remini’s anti-Scientology show, Ortega posted a blog about Scientology that included the line “before Leah Remini burns it to the ground.” Several threats of burning Scientology Churches were received after that blog post.
All this is irrefutable evidence of Ortega’s utter unfitness to be consulted on anything having to do with Scientology. Yet the San Diego Times uses Ortega as a “source” for their story on the opening of a new Scientology Church—even playing a recording of Stone’s interview with Church representatives to Ortega in New York so he could dispute the facts—about an event he did not attend, a Church he has never stepped inside, and a subject he knows absolutely nothing about.
When writing about Catholics, Buddhists, Jews, or Muslims opening a new church, temple, synagogue or mosque, the Times most certainly would not invite a longtime avowed enemy of one of those religions to comment on facts of which they had no knowledge.
Inflammatory, baseless and provably false comments from Tony Ortega or any of his ilk serve only to perpetuate hate and bigotry. The undocumented, untrue claims embedded in their story show the Times lingers in the dwindling circle of media who believe reporting on Scientology has to include malicious, spiteful comments and hate speech from religious bigots.
The reporter and his editors at the San Diego Times acted in direct violation of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics that admonishes reporters to “Seek Truth and Report It” and “Minimize Harm: Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.” The SPJ Code doesn’t offer any exceptions to those rules.