“Spanky” Taylor:
The “Escape” from Reality Artist

Alex Gibney had a chance to hear directly from the father of Spanky Taylor’s child the truth that undermined the fantasy spun by Taylor. Watch this video to hear the information Gibney avoided, from a man who was literally yards from Gibney’s office and willing to tell his side of the story.

About this video

How far did Alex Gibney go to dredge up bitter former Scientologists eager to serve up new myths about the Church to him? 10 years? 20 years? 30 years? How about nearly 40 years? Removed 38 years ago from her staff position, Spanky Taylor spins a melodramatic tale to Gibney about her daughter being mistreated and ignored when she worked for the Church. Only problem is her entire story is refuted by her then-husband Norman. He says their daughter not only got what she needed, she was cared for by a nanny. He notes that what Gibney also doesn’t reveal is that Spanky Taylor ripped their family apart through an affair. That was the true story. After getting involved in “deprogramming” with a now defunct anti-religious group renowned for breaking up families, Ms. Taylor is now part of the usual gang of embittered obsessed zealots Gibney used as his Going Clear sources.

Video transcript

In writing a 365-page book targeting the Church of Scientology, Lawrence Wright sought out a tiny group of disgruntled ex-members led by this man: expelled from the Church for financial misconduct, deception, ineptitude and violence.

Nearly all of Wright’s sources were dismissed from the Church for similar offenses, including embezzlement, financial wrongdoing, sexual misconduct, physical abuse and severe violations of Church doctrine.

Yet these are the individuals Lawrence Wright uses to impugn the character of the Church and its leader, a man responsible for a worldwide religion and its unprecedented expansion…

…and under whose stewardship the Church’s social betterment programs have become the largest nongovernmental anti-drug and human rights campaigns on Earth.

But in writing his so-called exposé on Scientology, Lawrence Wright’s sources were far from credible and Wright knew it.

Their allegations so far-fetched that a federal judge and an appeals court dismissed them as baseless.

Lawrence Wright ignored that.

And when the Church provided thousands of pages of evidence documenting the falsehood of those claims—Lawrence Wright continued to present the allegations as fact.

When asked in a journalist forum, “Do you believe that journalism can lead to truth?” Wright had this to say: "Truth is one of those subjective terms that are pointless to get too tied up about."

Wright’s book was released in January 2013 but failed to generate reader interest.

Still, it found itself immediately steeped in controversy about the veracity of its claims.

So much so that the book’s publisher would not release it in Britain, Ireland, Canada or Australia because of their libel laws.

The chances of losing a lawsuit were simply too great.

Now, documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney has taken Lawrence Wright’s book at its word without question or examination: “I utterly trusted Larry. I wasn’t looking for holes in his story.”

Over the two years Gibney quietly worked on his documentary, he never once contacted the Church, visited a Church or spoke to any of its members.

His documentary was in the can before he even mentioned it to them.

And even after the public premier of the film, Gibney refused to reveal his allegations directly to the Church and allow them to respond.

These claims provably false and their sources utterly without credibility.

Wright and Gibney know who these sources are and the real story behind their false allegations. And so should you.

Meet Spanky Taylor… quoted extensively in Lawrence Wright’s book—and her story prominently featured in Alex Gibney’s documentary of the same name.

Spanky Taylor is a drama queen.

And where there isn’t drama, she’ll create it.

Spanky has a penchant for drama.

She always has.

Anywhere from being ill—it was always a big drama. Situations that happened in her life with clients that dropped her—it was always a big drama.

Lawrence Wright and Alex Gibney had to delve back 37 years to exhume the tearful and dramatic tales of Spanky Taylor.

The first, an invented crisis involving her infant daughter and alleged substandard childcare.

But Norm Taylor, an attorney and Spanky's former husband, says she made the whole thing up.

“As far as our daughter Vanessa, she was in the care of a full time nanny and she had, she got everything she needed: she was fed well, she was changed constantly, I saw her every day.

“As her father I was there every day. I used to take her out in her stroller, I took her for walks, I would sing to her—I loved my daughter and I made darn sure that she was well taken care of.”

Even so, Spanky Taylor goes on to regale Wright and Gibney with another fabrication, a nail-biting account of a harrowing “escape” from Scientology in 1978, her baby daughter in her arms.

And it was just the story Wright and Gibney wanted.

But the truth is, her story is pure fiction…

just like Alex Gibney's recreation.

It just so happened, she didn’t show up to work one day.

She just said “I’m not doing this anymore” and I talked to her, I said, “Hey, what are you doing? Just go in and follow the protocol and you’ll be off staff and everything will be fine.”

Which is exactly what she did.

There was no escape involved at all…

And she was an active, practicing Scientologist for at least another six years.

Spanky Taylor remained a Scientologist all the way up to 1986, nearly a decade after her supposed escape.

At this point, she began a secret affair with one of her business clients, destroyed her marriage and turned her two children against her husband.

“It became very apparent that she was actually poisoning the kids—with their attitudes towards me. I mean it definitely affected our relationship.

“As a matter of fact, it destroyed my relationship with the kids…

“I loved my kids a lot and it tore me up to see that she would actually do that.”

After ripping her family apart, Spanky Taylor became fanatically anti-religious, getting deeply involved in the deprogramming activities of the now-defunct Cult Awareness Network, or “CAN”…

… a criminal group, many of whose members were arrested and convicted of assault, battery and kidnapping.

Spanky Taylor herself tried CAN’s deprogramming techniques on several Scientologists.

In a court declaration, one of Taylor’s victims stated that her ordeal had: “..only caused me pain and grief and had broken up my marriage…”

Breaking up families now becoming Spanky Taylor’s specialty.

But Lawrence Wright deliberately omits all of these details from his book…

Wright wouldn’t even check with Taylor’s husband—a man who was married to her during every one of her sensational allegations—to find out what really happened…

Because that would have destroyed Spanky Taylor's account of events dating back nearly four decades… falsehoods Wright must have thought no one would notice.

But Norm Taylor did.

“I was never contacted by anyone in connection with Lawrence Wright’s book; to check out any of the facts, any of the assertions made…

“So obviously I don't think anybody was particularly interested in verifying the accuracy of the story that was given.”

Now Alex Gibney is repeating what Wright said—again, refusing to talk with any firsthand witnesses, even those offered to him by the Church.

A frustrated Norm Taylor finally flew to New York to HBO headquarters to set the record straight.

But Alex Gibney and HBO still wouldn’t meet with him…

preferring to ignore the truth.

Instead, Gibney took Spanky Taylor to a film festival, where he paraded her around with her now-grown daughter …

…a woman Spanky had set against her own father so long ago, her mother now cynically bringing her onstage for a round of applause.

So here’s what we have:

Alex Gibney put together his “documentary” in secret…

…refusing to present his allegations to the Church…

…turning down anyone who could address the false claims of his “sources”…

… and declaring it all “irrelevant.”

Alex Gibney’s answer to why he did this was blunt and to the point: “I think we got the story that we wanted.”

Lawrence Wright, Alex Gibney and HBO executive producer Sheila Nevins got the story they wanted.

False allegations dating back nearly 40 years…

Tales told by a woman living in a soap opera world, spinning a twisted version of reality just to get her face in the spotlight.

I think Spanky's a coward.

Because cowards lie.

Cowards are afraid to face the truth and that’s exactly what Spanky is: she's a liar, she's an embellisher.

She's a professional apple-polisher.

She'll say whatever needs to be said to fill in the vacuum of a predetermined story.

This is not journalistic truth telling—it’s propaganda.

This is theater of the absurd.

In future segments, we’re going to show you more of Lawrence Wright’s “sources”…

Remember this guy—the ringleader of that tiny group Lawrence Wright befriended and used to tell false stories about his former religion?

“Shut the fuck up. I’m tellin’ you something right now…”

He was dismissed and expelled from the Church for criminal activities—that’s criminal, as in felony.

His resumé also includes episodes of shoving, kicking, punching and extreme violence.

And a honeymoon night spent in jail.

But Lawrence Wright doesn’t reveal any of that, or any other sordid detail about this man.

You’ll also meet those this man calls his “posse”: Such as Spanky Taylor’s former housemate, Tom DeVocht—a thief who used to ride shotgun with the leader on his punching sprees.

The guy the ringleader nearly killed, who he now calls his “best good buddy.”

This guy deserted his children and ruthlessly attacked his estranged wife…

All three, admitted accomplices in a scheme to suborn perjury—getting others to lie under oath.

And another Lawrence Wright source, the "lady" expelled from the Church for having sexual relations with someone she was ministering to, a violation of professional conduct in any church. You'll meet her, too.

… the paid tabloid source and his wife, whose frivolous lawsuits were repeatedly thrown out of Federal Court and the couple ordered to pay the Church $40,000.

… and the writer who took advantage of his Scientology connections to take $5 million for writing scripts he never completed.

Lawrence Wright and Alex Gibney could have shown you the truth about Scientology.

For this is Scientology today: A rapidly expanding religion with new churches opening, by the month, throughout the world…

But instead of showing you this, Wright and Gibney have chosen to give you this man…

“Shut the fuck up…”

And his tiny group of followers.

That’s right—this guy is the leader of all Lawrence Wright’s “sources.”

They are interconnected, each of them corroborating the other’s false stories and lies, some for big bucks.

All of them handpicked to populate the story Lawrence Wright and Alex Gibney want to sell.

Lawrence Wright, Alex Gibney and executive producer Sheila Nevins know full well who these people really are.

But you won’t see that on HBO.

“Shut the fuck up…”