RealTime

Silence For a Price, But at What Cost?


What does it cost to buy an editor these days?

During his tenure at the Village Voice, Tony Ortega was the most vocal defender of Backpage.com, which had grossed $500 million in criminal sex trafficking revenues by the time it was shut down by law enforcement in April 2018.

Ortega did his best to cover up the criminal conduct of his bosses who had put him in place as editor of Village Voice to do just that, with Backpage ad revenue paying his salary and keeping the Voice afloat. 

He characterized any criticism of their sex trafficking of children as “mass paranoia” and viciously attacked journalists, law enforcement agencies, and the U.S. Congress, accusing critics of spreading “bogus information” based on guesses by activist professors,” “junk science” and “manipulation by religious groups.” They aimed to put “us” out of business, he complained.

But his chief target was the Church of Scientology and its Freedom Magazine for their unrelenting exposure of Backpage. When Ortega turned the Voice into a platform for his anti-religious rants and ran the publication into the ground, Village Voice Media owners had no choice but to fire him.

"He told me that Scientology had been exposing that and he said the problem is that Scientology was more accurate than anybody thought. And in fact the Village Voice was almost exclusively financed by the human trafficking operation."

The public story is that he left on his own volition but the untold story was revealed by Mark Rathbun, the anti-Scientologist who served as Ortega’s key advisor on Scientology.

“He flew all the way down to South Texas, to my home. He had just got fired from The Village Voice, which he had converted into this anti-Scientology platform for two years. …The Village Voice had been investigated by law enforcement for human trafficking and promoting the child sex slave industry by its Backpage ads… 

"He told me that Scientology had been exposing that and he said the problem is that Scientology was more accurate than anybody thought. And in fact the Village Voice was almost exclusively financed by the human trafficking operation.

“And so the owners—now that Scientology was exposing it and law enforcement was investigating it—decided that they had to get rid of Tony Ortega, because he was just obsessed with Scientology and he was keeping their focus on him and their operation, so they needed to get rid of him…. He literally agreed to cover it up and obstruct justice for a payout of essentially a two-year by-out deal.”

And why would they need to buy Tony’s silence?

State Attorneys General and the U.S. Senate investigation revealed a criminal conspiracy of deception to keep the obscene profits rolling in.

It was those details Tony never divulged that helped him evade the criminal collapse of Backpage.

In 2018, Lacey, Larkin and five co-conspirators were indicted on 93 counts of facilitating prostitution, money laundering and conspiracy to commit these crimes.

Ortega kept his end of the deal with his bosses—saying not a word about Backpage since the day he left the Village Voice.

With nothing to offer but salacious and tabloid tales, Ortega is a stay-at-home blogger pretending to be a “journalist,” sponsored by a former member of the world’s oldest profession to troll the Church of Scientology with his speciality—fabricated news.

Today he pimps his fraudulent content for Leah Remini and her co-host, notorious wife-beater Mike Rinder, as their partner and personal advisor.