As the race for Los Angeles mayor enters its final weeks, billionaire developer Rick Caruso is conducting an anticipated ad blitz, with the release of a spot Monday reviving a speech his opponent, Rep. Karen Bass, made at a Church of Scientology event more than a decade ago.
The 60-second ad, titled “Church of Karen,” splices Bass’ 2010 speech at the opening of the Church of Scientology’s headquarters in Los Angeles with newspaper headlines alleging wrongdoing on the part of the church over the course of decades.
In the speech, Bass called the opening of the headquarters an “exciting moment because I know your goal and your commitment is truly to make a difference.” She also called the words of L. Ron Hubbard, the church’s founder, “exciting.”
“The Church of Scientology I know has made a difference,” Bass said. “Because your creed is a universal creed.”
Responding to the ad, Bass told ABC7 she is a Baptist, and attempting to associate her with the Church of Scientology was “ridiculous.”
“I have never, ever been affiliated with Scientology and absolutely condemn their practices,” Bass said. “That is very clear.”
In a statement, Sara Leonard Sheahan, Bass’ communications director, called the ad misleading and “straight out of the Republican playbook.”
“Everybody knows Karen Bass condemns Scientology,” Sheahan said. “L.A. knows Karen Bass shares our Democratic values and has always been on our side.”
The new ad, described by a Caruso campaign representative as “hard-hitting,” reintroduces criticism that first surfaced in 2020, when Bass was being considered by then-presidential candidate Joe Biden as a potential vice presidential nominee.
In 2020, Bass said she attended the Scientology event “knowing I was going to address a group of people with beliefs very different than my own, and spoke briefly about things I think most of us agree with, and on those things — respect for different views, equality and fighting oppression — my views have not changed.”
Bass added: “Since then, published first-hand accounts in books, interviews and documentaries have exposed this group.”
Caruso trailed Bass by double-digits in the most recent poll conducted in August by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.
“The question is: ‘How will Rick Caruso go?”‘ Bass told ABC7. “Will he just continue spending money like this attacking me and hoping that he lowers my poll numbers? Or, will he engage in what I believe voters really need to see, which is a dialogue and a debate and a discussion about the issues? And I don’t believe that he sees that as helpful to his campaign because I don’t think he has serious answers for voters in Los Angeles.”
Caruso has kept relatively quiet with ads after blitzing the airwaves ahead of the June primary, but the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that he is expected to spend more than $20 million on TV ads through the end of the campaign. Caruso’s campaign has spent more than $40 million so far.
The developer also began airing another 60-second ad last week, providing personal background and calling himself a “proud Democrat.” Caruso has faced criticism from Bass on flipping parties. He registered as a Democrat in January after previously being a Republican and having “no party preference.”
Communities United for Bass, an independent political action committee supporting Bass, spent $500,000 on an ad last week titled “Liar Liar.”