Donald Trump loved to bring up the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the campaign trail before last November’s presidential election. Most of his statements surrounding 9/11 — claiming he witnessed “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheering on the destruction of the Twin Towers, claiming he saw people jumping from the towers from his Midtown apartment — were bald-faced lies, but nonetheless Trump loved to raise the specter of one of the most devastating attacks to ever occur on U.S. soil. Today, though, I learned something new regarding Donald Trump and 9/11 — a weird connection between the current president and, of all things, the Church of Scientology.
In advance of Louis Theroux’s new film My Scientology Movie, in theaters this Friday, The Daily Beast has run a story entitled “Confessions of a Former Scientologist: David Miscavige and Donald Trump Are Eerily Similar.” Not only does the story examine similarities between the two leaders (Miscavige is the oft-accused-of-violence leader of the church), but it also raises an interesting connection between the two we’d never before encountered.
Trump’s “head-scratching connection to Scientology” — which even Tom De Vocht, formerly Scientology’s second in command, was not aware of — involves a donation made by the Donald J. Trump Foundation in 2006 to a 9/11-related charity. It was the Trump Organization’s only donation to 9/11 efforts, in fact, according to IRS records obtained by The Smoking Gun.
Trump’s foundation donated $1,000 to the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project: an initiative co-founded by Tom Cruise that allowed 9/11 firefighters to freely employ Scientology’s “Purification Rundown,” a detoxification method devised by L. Ron Hubbard that members of the medical community have described as “quackery” and “scientifically bereft.”
Though not aware of Trump’s donation, De Vocht knew of the project: “I am aware of it,” he says. “That was all a PR thing. Miscavige had to do something 9/11-related.”
More interesting than that little donation revelation, though — which, to be clear, we aren’t arguing signifies a ‘relationship’ between Trump and the church, though the paltry amount and lateness of the offering is indeed interesting — are the similarities between Trump and Miscavige that De Vocht expounds on.
“They are two peas in a pod, I tell ya, with regards to spewing at the mouth and lying constantly,” De Vocht tells The Daily Beast. “There’s a definite similarity between those two guys. It’s scary.”
For starters, both have a history of inflating the size of crowds present during major events. Trump famously argued that his inauguration was the most well-attended in history — bigly — despite evidence to the contrary: ground and aerial photographs courtesy of the National Park Service indicate his crowd was one-third the size of Obama’s inauguration, not the 1.5 million Trump claimed.
De Vocht says that Miscavige inflated his crowd size, too, perhaps regularly. In October of 1993, at the Memorial Sports Arena in Los Angeles, Miscavige made a huge announcement on behalf of Scientology — that after much work the church had been awarded tax-exempt status. The event was the ninth anniversary of the International Association of Scientologists, and according to De Vocht, “there weren’t that many people there. He believed that it was the biggest event, but it wasn’t. It’s just constant lies, you know? And making themselves look good. More important than anything is how Miscavige comes out looking and smelling. More important than anything.”
It’s also worth noting that the Church of Scientology is notoriously anti-gay, in its policies and as a religion. Dianetics — the Scientology handbook, if you will — bears these words, written by church founder L. Ron Hubbard: “The sexual pervert such as homosexuality, lesbianism, sexual sadism, etc., is actually quite ill physically… he is very far from culpable for his condition, but he is also far from normal and extremely dangerous to society.” It’s a fact made all the more confusing when one factors in the rumors of homosexuality that follow so many known Scientologists, Tom Cruise and John Travolta included.
Despite Trump’s claims to the contrary, his administration is no ‘friend of LGBTs’ either. His administration is packed to the gills with virulently anti-gay politicians, starting with his Vice President, Mike Pence. The Human Rights Campaign at one point referred to Pence as “the number one face of hate in the country.” Furthermore, the HRC ranks the voting record of Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions with a “zero percent.” Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is an anti-gay activist; Ken Klukowski, of Trump’s transition team, has worked for multiple anti-LGBT organizations, including the Family Research Council; HUD Secretary Ben Carson believes being gay is a choice; Steve Bannon signed off on numerous anti-“gay agenda” stories while at Breitbart.
Yet another eerie similarity between Donald Trump and David Miscavige: De Vocht recalls a story in which he’d gotten in trouble due to a building project he oversaw in 2005. “I did renovations for his building for him and re-did them three or four times because he didn’t like it, and when it was finally done to his liking I got reprimanded by him because it cost too much money,” says De Vocht. “It was ridiculous.”
Trump has been known to “stiff” his contractors on multiple building projects, at one point on the campaign trail even bragging about “not paying” a contractor who installed a microphone not up to his standards.
Of course, whereas Trump’s contractor was likely out a day’s pay, De Vocht was confined for months to “The Hole,” a secret Scientology compound located in Riverside, California, which the church claims doesn’t exist. “I saw the beatings, physical abuse, verbal abuse, sleep deprivation. It was crazy,” he says. “I decided that I’d rather be dead than stay with this. It was that bad, emotionally and otherwise.”
What do these similarities in personality traits between Donald Trump and David Miscavige prove? Perhaps nothing. But it’s interesting nonetheless that both men have been compared to cult leaders whose followers are brainwashed into talking points and overlooking serious character flaws.
We know that — at least in Los Angeles — Scientologists voted for Donald Trump. As The Slot reported in January, only seven districts in the ultra-liberal city of Los Angeles (1,700 precincts total) swung for Trump, and one of them was the district in which Scientology’s “big blue complex” (that’d be the one pictured at the top of this article) resides. Half of the L.A. precinct’s 1,100 registered voters live on Scientology property.
Another individual on whom the comparison of Trump and Miscavige is not lost: Leah Remini. The actress and former Scientologist has been in the headlines lately for her well-received A&E series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, and she’s gone public with a Trump/Miscavige comparison of her own. Namely, she finds the two men’s acrimonious nature with the press to be nearly identical.
“From the very beginning of the teachings in Scientology, you’re taught that news is a bad place, that the news lies, that’s what they do, they’re the business of lies,” she told Conan O’Brien on his show in January. “Parishioners believe, because we are told every day, ‘We are doing amazing things for the world, for mankind,’ so you’re trained and conditioned to believe that good news will not get out there, specifically toward Scientology.”
Remini says, “The brainwashing begins very early on.”