OPRAH Winfrey has been blasted by critics of Scientology after an advert for the controversial church aired during her interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
The ad promoting Scientology’s own TV channel ran during the US broadcast of the interview on Sunday evening on CBS, which saw Meghan and Harry accuse the Royal Family of racism and poor treatment.
The interview is believed to have attracted 17.1 million viewers in the US, while advertisers are thought to have paid $325,000 for a 30 seconds of ad time during the program.
Detractors of the church say it smacks of “tremendous hypocrisy” given widespread claims of abuses within the religion and allegations of anti-black racism against late Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
“CBS and Oprah’s production company have a responsibility to not help promote a cult like Scientology to millions of people,” Scientology critic Jeffrey Augustine told The Sun.
“They should not be taking the Church’s money, it’s pretty disgusting and extraordinarily hypocritical.
“If Oprah is so shocked by the Royal Family’s alleged racism, why does she turn a blind eye to L. Ron Hubbard’s alleged racism?
“Oprah has for decades not made a statement about Scientology.
“She hasn’t broadcast about about the claims of human rights abuses, forced abortions, child labour. It’s inexcusable and a tremendous hypocrisy.
“In the 1990s and 2000s former Scientologists contacted her show and she did not have them on as guests to talk about their awful claims.
“She is friends with John Travolta and has also done two blockbuster interviews with Tom Cruise, both well-known celebrity Scientologist.”
The religion’s founder L. Ron Hubbard was a defender of South Africa’s racist apartheid regime and said in 1960 that black people in that country were not civilized enough to vote.
He told a Scientology congress at the time: “Right now you tell me, well, the government of South Africa does not permit the black man a vote. He doesn’t even know what a vote is.
“Blacks kill off the blacks. And all you’ve got to do is pull a stable government off the top of them and they promptly start killing each other off.”
Science fiction writer Hubbard, who died in 1986 aged 74, also described the brutal South African government of the time as “nice guys”.
Hubbard’s church – which is currently run by Scientology chairman of the board David Miscavige – has long faced accusations of abuse of members and former members.
The harrowing stories of those who have escaped have been told in hit documentaries and TV shows such as Scientology and Me, Going Clear and actress Leah Remini’s Scientology and the Aftermath.
Those who leave the religion claim they are often declared “suppressive persons” and “disconnected” from family members and friends who remain within the church.
There have also been claims that members of the church’s Sea Org religious order have been forced to have abortions or subjected to forced labour.
Scientology has always strongly denied any accusations of abuse, forced labour or forced abortions. It also claims it does not have a policy of disconnected family members.
The Scientology Network is run from a five-acre complex on LA’s famous Sunset Blvd, which is known as Scientology Media Productions.
The TV channel was launched in March 2018 and is available on satellite TV and streaming services such as Apple TV.
CBS reportedly paid Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions up to $9million as a licensing fee for the two-hour interview with Meghan and Harry.
Karen de la Carriere, a former Scientologist previously married to the president of the Church of Scientology International Heber Jentzsch, said:
“Scientology will relentlessly poke itself into anything which is headline news, just to hijack or piggyback the publicity of it.
“There was so much hoopla before the Harry and Meghan interview aired, it was being billed as the interview of the century.
“Scientology has many of its Sea Org members in a huge PR department and is sitting with $3 billion to spend so they try to piggyback extremely well-watched events like the NFL Super Bowl and this interview.
“When they are guaranteed that millions will be watching that screen they will hop on and pay any price to glorify themselves.”
The outcry comes after US TV personality Meghan McCain compared Harry and Meghan to ex-Scientologists.
She told daytime TV show The View: “They were talking like ex-cult members that had somehow fled and made it out.
“It reminded me of people who had somehow escaped Scientology.”
Augustine added: “I find it outrageous that Harry and Meghan are being compared to former Scientologists who escaped a high control cult.
“They were living as royals surrounded by wealth and servants while people who escape from Scientology are victims of abuse, retaliation and bankruptcy.
“Nevertheless those comments show that Scientology has become the go-to reference for all things horrific and brutal so in that respect I understand why Meghan McCain said it.”
The Sun has reached out to the Church of Scientology, CBS, Harpo Productions and a rep for Oprah Winfrey for comment.
A spokesperson for the Church of Scientology said: “The Church of Scientology denies claims that they were opportunistic or hypocritical by running their ad.”
They also denied claims L Ron Hubbard was racist saying: “L. Ron Hubbard is known for having been decades ahead of the Western world regarding apartheid, having drafted a new ‘one man, one vote’ constitution when South Africa was still under the shackles of apartheid.”
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