Whatever Happened to Young Ortega?

When last we saw Tony Ortega he was defending a local bigot. Apparently this was the beat the Arizona tabloid editor had assigned him, and Ortega took to praising the unhinged hate-monger like a duck takes to water.

It is no exaggeration to say most of this early Ortega article reads with all the subtlety of a gushing fan note to an imprisoned serial killer. In fact, there are even moments where it’s clear Tony seems to be wishing that the religious bigot had gone even further in his harassment of everyday Scientologists.

Tony Ortega writes:

Ironically, [he] is one of the least vitriolic of Scientology’s critics. Some of the church’s detractors… push at the limits of free speech and good taste in their attacks on the church. It’s obvious some of them enjoy provoking Scientologists… 

But he is nearly as reserved in his Internet joustings with the church as he is in real life.”

Can’t you just imagine the disappointment present day Ortega might feel reading his own description above? After all, today’s Ortega is a man who it seems never fails to cheer when the online ‘jousting’ he regularly traffics in spills out into the real world and takes the form of physical altercations. 

To his credit, however, this bygone version of Tony Ortega from 22 years ago does offer a couple rare moments of what can almost be characterized as actual journalistic integrity. (We know, we couldn’t believe it either.)

To all appearances Ortega seems to faithfully report the words of one voice from the Scientology side of the story, about whom he writes:

“We are not the first church he’s attacked, and doubt we’ll be the last one,” says Reverend Durhman, who leads the Mesa congregation. “In fact, he has made attacking churches a lifelong career. 

You have to ask yourself what would motivate someone to spend their time at such a vicious activity. We want him to go away and stop harming people of goodwill.”

What would motivate someone to such vicious activity indeed. Of course, no one would understand that better than present day Tony Ortega.

Incredibly, Ortega even gives the last word of the piece to Reverend Durham who ties the whole sad story together saying of the subject of Tony’s story:

[He]and his picketer pals are the ones harassing our church and spreading lies about us. What he does to our religion is no different than someone painting a swastika on a synagogue or burning a cross in a black family’s yard–no different whatsoever.”

It has us all wondering whatever happened to that younger Ortega, the one who was at least at some level willing to report both sides?

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