The Paul Haggis Lie
Smoking-gun evidence has long exposed Haggis’ lies, from his sham “resignation” from the Church of Scientology to his latest conspiracy theory. But the accused rapist continues to shop his scripted story to media who will buy it.
Screenwriter Paul Haggis is a living lie. It is a lie he has scripted about himself over the course of decades.
But the documented, unscripted story starts with serial cheating on his wife. It continues through his disingenuous affiliation with the Church of Scientology—an affiliation he exploited to ingratiate himself in Hollywood and advance his career while flouting the ethical standards, such as fidelity, expected of Church members.
It reached a crescendo in 2009 with his stage-managed “resignation” from the Church when he fabricated a narrative for the press in which he falsely claimed the Church supported California’s Proposition 8, a public ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage the Church took no position on. Haggis knew it was a blatant lie, yet he spread it as a shameless publicity stunt about “leaving” the Church—something his confidant and co-conspirator, Mark “Marty” Rathbun, later exposed as outright fraud, furnishing evidence to prove it.
Yet Haggis persists with his lie to this day even with his credibility, reputation and finances in tatters. Facing horrendous sexual assault and rape accusations by six different women, Haggis continues to scriptwrite—shaming his alleged victims in the press by spreading provably false, bigoted claims that the Church somehow orchestrated his undoing. Haggis’ alleged victims, along with their lawyers, adamantly refute in court and media statements any connection to the Church, and Haggis himself privately admits he has no reason to believe any connection exists.
But it stays in the script.
The smoking gun
Haggis’ biggest lie is the one he composed in 2009. As he hoped, it made him better known than his screenwriting ever would.
As a 501(c)(3) organization, the Church of Scientology takes no position on public ballot measures. And as a prominent advocate of human rights, the Church does not discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation.
The Church therefore never took a position on, let alone supported, Proposition 8, the controversial California ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage in 2008. Unbeknownst to the Mother Church, however, one individual Scientologist in San Diego endorsed an online petition for the ballot measure while referencing his local church without authorization. Haggis brought it to a Church official’s attention, and the San Diego Church was quickly removed from the petition.
But rather than acknowledge the Church’s swift action, Haggis used the opportunity to revive his stalled career. He wrote himself into his script’s climax as a do-good whistleblower by feigning moral indignation because two of his daughters are gay. Haggis knew the Church would not take any position on Proposition 8 as a matter of policy but insisted it make an exception just for him. It all enabled Haggis to write a letter “resigning” from the Church of Scientology in August 2009. Haggis’ letter was then “inexplicably” leaked to the press two months later, generating media about his so-called resignation.
The ultimate smoking gun that shot down the Haggis lie surfaced in 2017 by none other than his partner on the scripting, Mark “Marty” Rathbun...[who] had reached out to Haggis to coerce him into publicly disaffecting from the Church.
But not a single reporter dug beneath the surface of the Haggis narrative portraying him as splitting with the Church over a “human rights” issue. Had they done so, they would have seen the Haggis hypocrisy at work. Raised a Roman Catholic, Haggis associated proudly and publicly with Catholic institutions and organizations and cited awards he received from Catholic entities as evidence of his “support of civil and human rights.” Not once did Haggis challenge the Catholic Church, the most staunch and outspoken religious supporter of Proposition 8.
The ultimate smoking gun that shot down the Haggis lie surfaced in 2017 by none other than his partner on the scripting, Mark “Marty” Rathbun, a former Scientologist who had been expelled by the Church years earlier. As Rathbun laid out in detail in a series of videos and email correspondence from Haggis, Rathbun had reached out to Haggis to coerce him into publicly disaffecting from the Church. “I shamed him into resigning,” Rathbun said.
Haggis submitted to Rathbun’s coercion. He had for many years capitalized on his status as a “Scientologist” to get job after job and climb in Hollywood through his association with Scientologists in the industry. Now his career was spiraling downward, coming on the heels of his failure to deliver on a highly touted screenwriting deal with a Scientologist that paid him millions.
Haggis had long since ceased considering himself a Scientologist; he had been all but inactive in the Church after 1977. He did, however, attempt twice to salvage his marriage to his former wife through the Church, and after admitting to her he had affairs with dozens of women, completed a Church course to take responsibility for his transgressions. Of two of the women, Haggis said: “I had actively pursued these people, against their initial (and sometimes continuing) objection.”
Haggis’ wife then discovered in 2006, after 10 years of marriage, that he had been carrying on a relationship with a woman for eight years, sending her intimate emails, including one proclaiming, “You are driving me mad.” Again, Haggis undertook a Church course to salvage the marriage, but stopped when it required him to own up to his transgressions. He never returned. Nearly a decade later, Haggis’ name showed up as a paying customer in a leak of account information from Ashley Madison, a website for adulterers.
Haggis never abided by ethics required of Scientologists because he selfishly viewed the Scientology religion as a convenient networking opportunity. Now in his 50s, fearing Hollywood was passing him by, he was desperate to stay relevant. And he saw how, as he told a reporter: “You get a lot of attention in journalism these days…just by attacking people.”
Thus when Rathbun contacted Haggis to get him to join in maligning the Church, Haggis saw his opportunity. Haggis could pretend he had been a Scientologist so he could get attention by now saying he was not one. He positioned himself as an advocate for gay rights, splitting from the Church over a controversy he invented from whole cloth “because of Proposition 8.”
In June 2017, the lie was exposed when Rathbun came forward as the silent partner behind Haggis’ scripted and staged “resignation.”
Far from being a principled decision over gay rights, Rathbun said: “The master scriptwriter gets to write his own script….He wanted me to create false identities [and] to lie to the media about false identities who were telling me things about Paul Haggis so he could orchestrate this whole rollout.”
Rathbun detailed how the two conspired to stage Haggis’ exit and obtain maximum publicity.
“Paul Haggis consulted with me every step of the way, on how he should position this and how he should do this,” Rathbun explained. “He rode this sort of pro-gay rights wave as a PR vehicle and [so] as to paint himself as heroic….And it was critical…to the whole false narrative.”
Rathbun further explained that Haggis made him “the coordinating point on seeing to it that his [resignation] letter was published.” Haggis outwardly pretended “he ha[d] no idea” how the letter had been leaked. Yet Haggis had given the letter to Rathbun for the express purpose of leaking it. As Rathbun recounted, “Not only do I have the letter, I’m getting detailed meticulous instructions about how to present it deceptively to media.”
As evidence, Rathbun posted the scripted narrative Paul Haggis emailed him on August 23, 2009, complete with character names for the drama. Haggis (“Pete”) gleefully announced to Rathbun (“Lightin’”) the fictional plot he had settled on with their “co-conspirators” and stated they had determined “the best way to get this story out.”
Haggis told Rathbun to pretend he was contacted by a nonexistent person “informing” Rathbun of Haggis’ resignation from the Church. Haggis then told Rathbun to contact an anti-Scientology journalist he knew to feed him the fake news: “I would suggest that you say this person told you that I gave two reasons. The first was the church’s support of California’s Proposition 8 initiative,” Haggis wrote. Haggis then directed Rathbun to relay to the media that Haggis “was ‘shocked and horrified.’”
To complete the deception Rathbun was to pull on his media contacts, Haggis wrote: “Suggest they just cold call me, as you don’t know me.”
Rathbun counted “no less than eight misrepresentations of fact” by Haggis in deceiving media “into buying his phony narrative about himself.”
The New Yorker and HBO spread Haggis’ lie
In 2010, writer Lawrence Wright latched onto Haggis as a plot device—or what Wright termed his “donkey”—to carry him through a diatribe he was writing against the Church for The New Yorker. Wright’s linchpin source and advisor for his article was Mark Rathbun.
Haggis told family he originally thought the article was to be a profile on him to promote his next movie, a box office failure called The Next Three Days. But Wright disabused Haggis of that notion, informing him that Scientology was the draw—not Paul Haggis. “Why else would we be interested in you?” Wright told him.
Lured nonetheless by the prospect of seeing his name and face in the magazine, Haggis played up his role for Wright’s piece, rerunning his manufactured story of leaving the Church.
Haggis asked Rathbun to lie for him to Wright to protect Haggis’ crafted image as a pro-gay rights crusader. He begged Rathbun to cover up that it was Rathbun, and not the concocted story about “Proposition 8,” that prompted Haggis to disaffect from the Church. Rathbun later recounted Haggis’ words: “He said ‘Look, for the sake of my image with my daughters, can you please avoid telling Larry Wright that you were the person—that you prompted me…?’” When called out on this revelation from Rathbun, Haggis even conceded that “Marty is likely telling a truth.”
After Wright granted Haggis the leading-man role in The New Yorker anti-Scientology narrative, he passed the torch to Alex Gibney, who further spread the Haggis lie in his anti-Scientology HBO film. Haggis knew that neither Wright nor Gibney would dig beneath the surface of his story and risk their collective narratives being unraveled.
But before ending off with Wright, Haggis uttered a prophetic warning, evincing Haggis knew his days of covering up his past transgressions were numbered.
“My bet is that, within two years, you’re going to read something about me in a scandal that looks like it has nothing to do with the church,” Haggis told Wright.
Haggis’ predicted scandal unfolded not in two years, but in six. And not only did it have nothing to do with the Church, but it had everything to do with who Paul Haggis really is and the deep, dark secrets he carries.
“You’re scared of me, aren’t you?”
In October 2017, when accusations of sexual misconduct exploded against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, Haggis publicly condemned the producer. “He was a predator, and a predator is a predator,” Haggis proclaimed to The Guardian.
Soon after, it was Haggis who was called a sexual predator—not once but, in time, by six different women. It started when New York City film publicist Haleigh Breest was outraged by Haggis’ hypocrisy, and privately came forward to accuse Haggis of raping her in 2013.
Haggis slapped a suit on Breest to silence her. Breest immediately filed her own lawsuit. “The only thing worse than raping a woman is raping her, then suing her for trying to stand up for herself,” read Breest’s answer to Haggis’ complaint.
Breest meticulously recounted the events of January 31, 2013, which began when Haggis offered to drive her home from a movie premiere, but then pressured her into going to his Manhattan apartment on the pretense of having a drink.
Once there, she described, he forcibly kissed her. In an ensuing struggle, Haggis ripped off her tights, forced her to perform oral sex on him, and then raped her while she lay frozen in terror. The more she resisted, the more excited and violent Haggis became, Breest said, recalling his chilling words: “You’re scared of me, aren’t you?”
Breest’s complaint detailed a horrifying night with a man who allegedly became increasingly angry and violent to satisfy his sexual impulses.
In January 2018, three other women stepped forward to join Breest as witnesses in the case. In sworn testimony, they recounted their own incidents of Haggis’ sexual assault between 1996 and 2015, including a rape. The following year yet another woman surfaced alleging sexual assault by Haggis. And a fifth woman in 2022 claimed Haggis had raped her in Italy while he was there for a film festival.
Meanwhile, the New York court threw out Haggis’ suit against Breest and ruled that Breest’s complaint go forward. In a decision hailed as a victory for female victims of violent sexual assault, the court allowed her case to proceed under New York’s Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Act—a law allowing victims to seek civil recovery against their attackers—with the support of 11 civil and women’s rights organizations.
Haggis’ response has been to promote the absurd fiction that the Church is behind his public disgrace.
“Haggis’ confidential documents show that his lawyers have spread this fiction since the very beginning, seeking maximum publicity for their fake news,” read a motion brought by Breest’s counsel in 2019.
Witnesses in Haggis’ defense questioned about a connection to Scientology testified that there is no connection.
As the victim’s counsel then exposed, Haggis knew it was a lie: “Haggis admitted he has no idea whether the Church is even tangentially involved in this matter. In an email to friends and colleagues, Haggis wrote of his Scientology conspiracy theory: ‘Who the fuck knows if it is the case?’….
“This is one of many damning admissions that Haggis designated confidential in this case and seeks to keep sealed so that he can continue to lie to the press and the public.”
The Haggis lie was unraveling as the world was getting a look at the real Paul Haggis. Media that had previously been sympathetic to him were wondering why he couldn’t explain six alleged sexual assault victims across two continents. Studios and charities distanced themselves from him, and even citizens in his hometown of South London, Ontario, pushed to rename a park dedicated in Haggis’ honor amid the revelations about his treatment of women.
Haggis’ sister, Kathy Slevin, who had worked with Haggis on many of his projects, had long since revealed there was a violent, explosive side to her brother: “Paul is abusive. He was abusive to his wife. He used to get into physical fights with her and lock her in the closet, lock her in the bathroom. And there was a time when he tried to get physically abusive with me.”
Haggis enlists Leah Remini, Mike Rinder to shame his alleged victims
To promote his fictions while spreading bigotry about the Church, Haggis enlisted the help of anti-Scientologists Leah Remini and Mike Rinder, joined by Tony Ortega, an anti-Scientology blogger for hire.
In September 2017—shortly after Mark Rathbun exposed Haggis’ fictitious “resignation” from the Church—Remini and Rinder gave Haggis a platform on their cable TV show, with Ortega shilling for the three of them. Four months later, when four women were accusing Haggis of sexual assault and rape, Remini and Rinder sought to victim-shame Haggis’ accusers with their Scientology conspiracy theory, calling the accusers “suspect” and “not credible” while dubbing Haggis “truly a gentleman.”
Their smokescreen falsely implicating the Church was pierced by one of Haggis’ accusers. In her published first-person column in The Hollywood Reporter, she called Remini to “shame” for defending an accused rapist and for “baseless statements” in an “attempt to silence” victims and the entire #MeToo movement.
“I can’t even look into my own [soul] and know what’s true and what’s not,” Haggis said. “We’re all trying to fool ourselves. We’re trying to package ourselves into something that others will like, or others will admire, even when we’re pretending not to.”— PAUL HAGGIS
Haggis and his partners continued to spread Haggis’ latest lie. In 2020, they turned to an Australian tabloid reporter, a friend of Rinder and Ortega, to develop Haggis’ Scientology conspiracy into a slanderous series. The TV network killed the production before it aired and fired the disgraced reporter.
“Lying Through His Teeth”
In June 2022, Paul Haggis was arrested in Italy on charges of aggravated sexual violence and released from custody after a young woman accused him of forcing her to engage in sex over several days, then abandoning her at an airport. According to a medical examiner’s report, the victim was injured to the point of being incapable of having further sex. She told an Italian prosecutor, “I was raped for days.”
Once again, Haggis floated his false anti-Scientology defense to an Italian publication while admitting he has “no proof.”
But Haggis long ago gave up on distinguishing fact from fiction. Once asked by a magazine writer if a story he had told about his life was true, Haggis tellingly replied, “I truly don’t know! I think I did. But after you tell something a dozen times, you have no idea if you did or not. I think that’s the way memory works.”
“I can’t even look into my own [soul] and know what’s true and what’s not,” Haggis continued. “[W]e’re all trying to fool ourselves. We’re trying to package ourselves into something that others will like, or others will admire, even when we’re pretending not to.”
Mark Rathbun put it more directly: “Paul Haggis is lying through his teeth.”