Look beyond Leah Remini’s pious, money-motivated self-righteousness to find someone inspiring others to hate.
And when one of her “fans” makes serious trouble that escalates into violence, Remini is eerily silent. No tweets referring to the fan as “honey.” No Instagram posts. Nothing condemning those who threaten lives and commit violence carrying out hate crimes against her former Church, its ecclesiastical leader and even its parishioners, people she once called friends.
Indeed, since promotion began for Remini’s anti-Scientology reality TV show, threats against Scientologists on social media, through emails and in phone calls have dramatically increased. The Los Angeles Police Department and other law enforcement agencies are actively investigating the threats, which include violent references.
All told, Remini’s show has created an onslaught of over 100 hate postings, including at least 50 threatening death or violence that reference her show. Just a few examples of threats on the Church’s leader: “I hope he burns in a house fire,” and “I’m gonna assassinate” him and “Literally gonna torch down every scientology center.”
One online posting from Georgia read, “You should all kill yourselves. Or come to my neighborhood and let me do it for you.” Included were photos of his assault rifle online. The Pike County (Ga.) Sheriff’s Office described the posting as a “terrorist threat via computer.”
The hate mail directed at the Church is based solely on the lies in Remini’s show, as evidenced by the fact that the same lies are repeated in the tweets, emails and postings, usually with the hashtag for Remini’s show.
The most recent threat, from an anonymous poster praised A&E and stated, “Come to my house to meet my 9mm glock.”
In Tampa, a man tore the cross off the Church and ran off. The crime was reported to the Tampa Police and will be pursued for prosecution of a hate crime.
Yet Remini and her co-producers don’t care. They callously continue to sensationalize their anti-religious hate propaganda in their search for better ratings.
It’s not the first time potentially dangerous individuals have been inspired by hate spread about the Church by Leah Remini. Take Erin McMurtry, a gushing Leah Remini fan on social media from Texas who smashed her car through the front of the Church of Scientology of Austin in December 2015. McMurtry plowed across the lobby before coming to a stop just short of a nursery that only hours before had been filled with children. She then threw her car in reverse, backing out the same way she entered the building, and took off.
It was a miracle that no one was injured or killed, and it was only a stroke of luck that the nursery was empty. Tracked down by police, McMurtry admitted to the crime and ranted about Scientology, including false claims made by Remini. She was charged with criminal mischief of a place of worship. The case is pending.
Leading up to her violent outburst, McMurtry was one of Remini’s biggest cheerleaders on social media in postings that grew increasingly strident and angry. At the time, Remini was on a media tour promoting her anti-Scientology book.
Meanwhile, McMurtry also actively promoted Remini and her book on social media, linking to her media appearances and even posting a photo of the cover of her book:
“Thank you so much for speaking up Leah Remini!!!”
…and “Leah Remini is a true inspiration.”
So when a disturbed fan like McMurtry admits to resorting to violence against the Church—violence that could have killed parishioners—what is Leah Remini’s reaction? Silence.
Sadly, it doesn’t stop with McMurtry. A Chicago man, Andre Barkanov, pleaded guilty to threatening to assassinate the leader of the Church, whom Remini vilifies, and “every single one of you.”
In an interview with Los Angeles Police detectives, Barkanov stated that his view of the Church was shaped by, among others, “that King of Queens lady,” referring to the former TV sitcom that remains Remini’s best-known role. Barkanov told detectives he had seen Remini on television promoting her book.
Barkanov was arrested by the LAPD after a call was traced to him that a Church receptionist described to authorities in a letter. She wrote, “The man was calm, collected and almost businesslike in the way he conveyed the threat to Mr. Miscavige, myself, my family, our staff and parishioners. It can only be described as chilling, as it was cold, calculating and methodical.”
She further wrote, “From the minute that first call came in I was convinced that I faced potential danger as did Mr. Miscavige, my colleagues and fellow Scientologists… He threatened me personally, as well as my family’s safety. I was afraid.”
Likewise, another Church official wrote to authorities that Barkanov’s voice “was menacing and hostile, clear in his intentions. What was frightening was I had no idea where this person was calling from. For all I knew he could have been across the street.”
The Church official added: “Before this, I would sometimes take walks in the neighborhood around our offices, and stopped out of fear. While I am reassured by the increase in our security, you never get over it… People should not have to live in fear of bigotry and hate.”
In another incident, Ms. Remini’s support of wife beater Ron Miscavige coincided with a hate crime threatening to harm the Church leader, Ron Miscavige’s own son.
In May 2016, Remini made a guest appearance on ABC’s 20/20 with Ron Miscavige. So did another individual Remini supports, Lois Reisdorf, an expelled Scientologist known for hate speech. Prior to her appearance on the 20/20 episode featuring Remini, Reisdorf had been inciting her son Brandon to hate the Church and Scientologists including her own family members.
Six days before 20/20 aired, Brandon Reisdorf drove to the front reception of the Church of Scientology of Los Angeles, got out of his car and threw a hammer through a window, retrieved the hammer, threw it again a second time even more forcefully, and drove off. The car he escaped in was registered to Lois.
Two hours later, Brandon posted an email threat against the leader of the Church. He was arrested by the LAPD and was put under a criminal protective order, and convicted of vandalism of a church in November 2016.
Leah Remini proclaimed in a 2014 BuzzFeed interview that “I don’t want to be known as this bitter, ex-Scientologist.”
Now that she is fast becoming known for only that, one would think Remini would feel a responsibility to refrain from hate speech that could cause violence and to condemn those who are incited by her words to commit violent acts endangering others. But her silence speaks volumes.