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BBC man 'goaded' into interview outburst

Yorkshire Post, 15 May 2007

By Kate O'Hara and Rob Waugh

A VETERAN BBC Panorama reporter claimed he was goaded into an "elephant trap" when his temper erupted during the filming of a documentary which sparked a row between the Church of Scientology and the BBC.

John Sweeney admitted he resembled an "exploding tomato" as he "lost it", raging at a Scientology representative: "Now listen to me ...You cannot assert what you are saying..."

Footage by the Scientologists, dubbed an attack video by Mr Sweeney, was posted on website YouTube.

Meanwhile, the BBC's own footage of Scientologist Tommy Davis becoming angry also appeared ahead of its broadcast on last night's Panorama.

The documentary row has been referred to as one of the first examples of "video ambushing" when the subjects of an investigation turn the tables on those doing the investigating.

The BBC has also denied allegations that it orchestrated a demonstration against the group in which a "terrorist death threat" was supposedly made.

Writing on the BBC's website, Mr Sweeney said: "The battleground is YouTube and Scientology's weapon is a clip of me losing it in the Mind Control section of a gruesome exhibition.

"Scientology has fought many battles to keep its secrets off the web; now they are using it to attack my investigation into them.

"Scientology has prepared an attack video, and they have shown the Scientology v Sweeney shouting match to anyone who would watch it. There is talk of 100,000 copies being released."

Referring to his outburst, he said: "If you are interested in becoming a TV journalist, it is a fine example of how not to do it. I look like an exploding tomato and shout like a jet engine ... it makes me cringe."

Scientology is grounded on the works of the late writer L Ron Hubbard and counts Tom Cruise and John Travolta among a string of famous followers.

Explaining the Scientologists' own documentary of events, Scientology official Mark Rinder said: "It became clear to us that his story was pre-written.

"He wouldn't let the facts get in the way, so we decided to do a John Sweeney on John Sweeney."

Mr Sweeney was reprimanded by the BBC and apologised for his "inappropriate" behaviour.

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