Dahn Yoga’s Official Response Letter to CNN (January 5, 2010)
January 5, 2009
Campbell Brown Show, CNN
Dear Ms. Rodriguez:
I am sending you this letter to voice my concerns about an upcoming broadcast. I am In-house Counsel and Vice President of Communications for Dahn Yoga & Health Centers, Inc. (“Dahn Yoga”). CNN is about to air a story on Campbell Brown’s show based on their months-long investigation of a lawsuit against Dahn Yoga instituted by former employees. However, this “investigation” does not appear to be objective, but a narrowly focused one that began with partiality from the onset. We did our best to give your team all of the information we had at our disposal about the lawsuit, about the plaintiffs, about our company and its business practices. Recently, when I saw an advertisement for the broadcast on CNN, I became concerned that all our efforts were in vain. Judging from the title “Yoga Cult,” the excerpts that have been airing on CNN and my own experience with your team, it seems that the “investigative report” suffers from a failure to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the counter side of the story for balance and truthfulness.
Much of my professional background is in transactional law, so I may have been naïve about the media business. However, this lawsuit has generated enough media attention to bring me in contact with a variety of journalists. I have noticed basic decency among these journalists, regardless of how things turned out in the editing process. Not so with CNN.
Following our initial contact a CNN employee was sent “undercover” to one of our studios, asking unusual and leading questions of the studio manager, generally setting off alarm bells with her behavior. I was surprised at this because I had already told the producer we could make arrangements for someone from CNN to visit one of our locations. I understand that such a tactic might be useful for an uncooperative subject, but we had already promised our cooperation. This was the first indication that CNN had spoken to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and were already biased towards their accusations.
Although we had started to build a consistent communication bridge since then, having completed an informational interview session and having made arrangements for an on-camera interview, we were once again shocked by CNN’s ambush tactics at the dedication ceremony for one of our non-profit affiliates. Two cameramen, a reporter and a producer showed up just in time to “catch” the company’s founder, ”in the act” of walking from the performance space to the dedication site of the statue. These people never identified themselves, even when asked repeatedly. They continued to film even when asked to stop and continued to ask questions when they were asked to leave. In fact, one cameraman insulted Mr. Lee in Korean in response to this request, demanding, “You raped a girl, didn’t you?” Was he trying to get a rise out of Mr. Lee? Is CNN so desperate for ratings that paparazzi tactics have become de rigueur? With CNN’s cache, your journalists would seem to have access that would not require such low level lies and trickery. Later, we were told that cameramen visited business in the Cottonwood and a couple of days later, CNN sent a cameraman to one of our New York City locations. I understand the need for footage and I understand that sometimes subjects can be very uncooperative, but this behavior was disruptive to employees and members at various locations. Did the plaintiffs receive the same type of attention?
The real heart of my concern is that your organization should take the accusations against us so seriously. These plaintiffs have created interesting fiction in order to extort money from us. I don’t think you have to be a lawyer to notice the weakness of their complaint. The fact that a judge has already dismissed most of their claims should have planted some seeds of doubt in the minds of your producers, editors and reporters. The judge ruled that the plaintiffs provided insufficient facts to support their claims. Their amended complaint only hurt their case against us, in fact pointing to each other as perpetrators. That fact will not likely be mentioned in your story. You will probably say something like “Dahn Yoga Masters forced them to…” when their complaint shows that Lucie Vogel, Heather Cleary, Heather Simmeral and other co-plaintiffs were perpetrators. Still interested? Well, I still don’t understand why. If we had not given your team so much information, I would worry that you do not have the full story.
The final blow to my hope for balance with CNN was when I learned that someone who worked with us in the past was shown much of the edited footage for the broadcast. From what I heard, the plaintiffs were very convincing, since they were given ample space to voice their accusations without challenge. In one of your preview segments online, I noticed one of the plaintiffs talking about bowing and even giving a demonstration. However, you did not visit our classes to see bowing meditation; you did not ask us for the history of bowing. Your producer even refused to interview our members who were willing to talk about the benefits of bowing and other practices. In addition, Mr. Fitzpatrick chose not to inquire about bowing with the two instructors he interviewed. They would have told you about how bowing is self-paced; many people take hourly water and or food breaks, some people decide not to finish. No one is punished for these choices and no one is ridiculed or “refocused” as Ms. Miller told Kyra Phillips. Many of the plaintffs’ accusations are clearly defamatory in nature and are stated only to sensationalize the claims made in the lawsuit and force a settlement. We dispute the allegations and look forward to our day in court when we can clear our good name and reputation, including potential countersuit proceedings.
I had hoped that our interactions with CNN would provide us the opportunity to clear the air, to create new understanding. I am sorry that you found the accusations against Dahn Yoga more interesting than Dahn Yoga’s accomplishments. I understand that you have obtained footage and audio recordings on your own. I am certain that these recordings will be used to support your negative conclusions about Dahn Yoga. I am disappointed that you did not expand your investigation widely enough to experience the exercises, meet some people, get community feedback and learn important basic facts about Dahn Yoga. Attached is a list of documents we provided in general and I am attaching special documents we sent on Ilchi Lee. There is still space for you to get the other side of the story. Thank you.
DOCUMENTS PRESENTED TO CNN
(1) What Makes Dahn Yoga So Special
(2) Top 10 Facts About the Plaintiffs
(3) Motion to Dismiss (Highlighting points about Lucie)
(4) Statement of Facts (Highlighting points about Lucie)
(5) Motion to Reconsider (Highlighting points about Jade)
(6) Exhibit (Highlighting points about Jade)
(7) Summary of information about Jade
(8) Park Complaint to show that Kent is turning a wage & hour case into a money maker by adding sexual innuendo again
(9) Ari’s Letter (In case he has spoken to Steve Hassan)
(10) Off the record discussion of harassment of employees, franchisees, families and business supporters
(11) Coroner’s Toxicology Report (Clearing up assumptions about Siverls case)
(12) Sheriffs Report (with discussion about the police declaring the person whose testimony was the basis of plaintiffs’ claims an unreliable witness, immature behavior)
(13) Combined Motion to Dismiss by all defendants in response to Plaintiffs’ new complaint.)
(14) A profile entitled “Who is Ilchi Lee”;
(15) A collection of high profile Endorsements of Ilchi Lee;
(16) A video excerpt of Ilchi Lee’s presentation at a UN Health Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, July 2009 (http://vimeo.com/8446045 ); and
(17) A document providing background information about Mago and the Mago statue in Cottonwood, AZ.