An air of intrigue

Cruise's aid to detox center draws critics

Daily News/June 30, 2004
By Jo Piazza and Chris Rovzar

Tom Cruise has stepped into some fresh controversy by funding a Long Island clinic with links to Scientology.

Three weeks ago, the actor slipped into Williston Park for the opening of a facility touted to help 9/11 rescue workers who suffered smoke inhalation.

"Thousands are still suffering" from the aftermath of the WTC attacks, Cruise declared. "That's unacceptable to me, to these heroes and to their families."

Having opened one detox center in Manhattan in 2002, the "Mission: Impossible" star said, "We were asked for a second one closer to the rescue workers' homes."

Cruise said he'd helped raise $1.2 million for the Long Island clinic because "when I say I am going to do something, I do it - every time."

New York City print media weren't told of the ceremony.

"Why would we invite the press when they said such nasty things about us before?" Jim Woodworth, a Scientologist and director of the Manhattan detox center, told us.

Run by Dr. Steven Lager, a Scientologist, the Long Island program is based on the teachings of Scientology founder and science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. It consists of exercise, sauna sweating and a regimen of vitamins and minerals aimed at cleansing the body of toxic residues.

An FDNY spokesman said yesterday that fire officials continue to believe the program's "results are medically unproven." The spokesman added, "The department is not affiliated with the organization."

Rick Ross, who monitors Scientology on his site, contends that the clinics may serve as recruiting facilities for the group.

"[It's] a religious ritual being marketed as detox," Ross told us. Keith Miller, a spokesman for the project and a Scientologist, argued that the clinic is "strictly secular."

Lee Anne De Vette, Cruise's sister and spokeswoman, says the actor remains "incredibly involved" in the rescue-worker detox effort. She added, "We're looking at opening more centers in the other boroughs."

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