BBC Reporter, Scientologist Square Off

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

The British Broadcasting Corp. and the Church of Scientology are both using the Internet to air a dispute in which a reporter shouts angrily at a church official while researching a documentary broadcast on Monday.

Reporter John Sweeney's outburst came as he was interviewing Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis, who had previously objected to Sweeney's use of the word "cult" to describe Scientology.

Sweeney was captured by BBC's Panorama program and Scientology video cameras during a rant which continued for about 40 seconds.

In a story posted on the BBC News website Sweeney admitted that the outburst made him look like an "exploding tomato" and made him cringe, but said he had apologised immediately after the outburst.

He said Scientology members had sent copies of the outburst to his boss "my boss's boss and my boss's boss's boss, the director-general of the BBC" .

The Church of Scientology, whose members include Hollywood stars John Travolta and Tom Cruise, shadowed the Panorama team with its own camera crew.

A church spokesman denied that Sweeney apologised, and said the organisation was putting its own documentary about the dispute on the Internet.

A Los Angeles-based spokesman for the Church of Scientology, said he had taken the documentary to the BBC, but the corporation had not looked at it.

The BBC offered links to its footage and its own news report on its Website.

Panorama's editor said on Monday he was "disappointed" by Sweeney's outburst but added that the Church of Scientology had "no way of dealing with any kind of criticism at all".

The Scientology spokesman said it was not the first time that the church had made its own recordings of reporters doing stories about the church.

The spokesman said Scientology officials decided to follow Sweeney with their own cameras after Sweeney refused an invitation to visit the church's headquarters in Florida.

Sweeney said his outburst came while he was touring a Scientology exhibition in Los Angeles, "Psychiatry: Industry of Death".

The exhibit included a mock-up of a Nazi torture chamber, he said, adding that he lost it in the "Mind Control" section of the exhibition.

The Scientology spokesman said the material in the exhibition came from psychiatric archives.

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