Paulette Cooper, With Help From the Voice, Discovers Her Heartrending Past

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Paulette and Suzy in the 1980s
In December, I finally got the chance to meet Paulette Cooper when we had breakfast near the offices of the Voice. For many of us who toil in this business of reporting on Scientology, we have no greater hero. Paulette's 1971 book, The Scandal of Scientology, was one of the first exposes of the church and remains one of the best. And no other writer who revealed Scientology's secrets paid a higher price: As we told in new detail on Thanksgiving Day, Paulette was framed by Scientology operatives who were determined to get her imprisoned. She faced 15 years in prison at one point, indicted for sending bomb threats that had actually been faked by the church. She lived with extreme harassment from 1969 to 1985, when the last of 19 church lawsuits against her were finally settled.

Even today, 35 years after an FBI raid on the church turned up documents revealing that Scientology had set out to frame Paulette, there are still mysteries about the plot against her, which church operatives called Operation PC Freakout -- we are making progress even today filling in those details, the subject of a future story.

But there was another, unpredictable outcome from that December breakfast, another part of Paulette's story that suddenly opened up to her in dramatic fashion. And today, we have those details.


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Scientology's Scourge, Paulette Cooper, Visits with the Voice

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Paulette Cooper, still keeping tabs on Scientology
Our regular readers can probably imagine why we were pretty thrilled this morning to finally meet the original badass of Scientology watchers, none other than Paulette Cooper.

She was in town to visit her sister and found time to have breakfast with us this morning at the Noho Star, not far from the Voice offices. Speaking of her sister, Suzy, Paulette says that the two of them are still trying to piece together exactly what happened when, as young children, they were rescued from a Nazi camp in Belgium, sparing them the fate of their parents, who were shipped to Auschwitz for extermination. A Belgian man rescued the girls by paying the equivalent of what today would be about $2 million to save 22 children from the camp, and to this day Paulette would like to learn his identity.

She went on, of course, to move to New York, became a magazine journalist, and published several books, including 1971's The Scandal of Scientology, the first journalistic expose of the church. She paid for that with years of incredible harassment by Scientology, which tried to frame her for crimes that had her facing 15 years in prison.

Which makes us wonder: Why the hell hasn't a movie been made about this woman's life?

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Paulette Cooper, Scientology's Original and Worst Nightmare: A Thanksgiving Tribute by the Village Voice

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I couldn't think of a better way to give thanks this year than to pay homage to the woman who was there first, paid the highest price, and remains a mentor, an inspiration, and a total class act.

In gratitude to our many loyal Scientology watchers who have made this year so special, here at the Voice we are excited to present a Thanksgiving tribute to Scientology's first and worst nightmare, the one, the only, Paulette Cooper.

40 years ago, Paulette published her stunning expose of the church, The Scandal of Scientology, and we also didn't want that anniversary to go unmarked. So over the last several weeks, I've been in touch with Paulette, talking to her about her book, about its famous aftermath, and learning about someone who has been encouraging me over my entire career. Here then is the Paulette that I've gotten to know.

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Paulette Cooper's Statement on Tom Cruise Winning a Humanitarian Award

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Paulette Cooper
Last week, at a ceremony in Beverly Hills, the Simon Wiesenthal Center gave Tom Cruise its annual Humanitarian Award. As we pointed out earlier, this did not go down well with people who wondered why such a famous pro-justice organization would give an award to a man almost synonymous with Scientology, a "church" that splits up families, relies on menial labor conducted under harsh conditions, and that is being investigated by the FBI, we hear, for those practices. One of the people stunned by the decision of the Simon Wiesenthal Center is Paulette Cooper, a Holocaust survivor and perhaps the most well known investigator of Scientology.

Her 1971 book, The Scandal of Scientology, was among the first to expose the organization's bizarre beliefs and toxic practices. For this, she was the subject of an outrageous campaign of payback by Scientology. One plot, to get her arrested for issuing bomb threats that she didn't make, was only uncovered when federal agents raided Scientology's offices in 1977 and found evidence of the scheme against Cooper. Google her name for more details on the incredible harassment she survived. Earlier today, she sent me this statement she wanted made public. -- Tony Ortega

On May 5th, Scientologist Tom Cruise was given a Humanitarian Award in LA by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Whaaatt?? Who will they award next? Mel Gibson for his anti-Semitic rants? Jews for Jesus for their great job converting Jews?


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