Oprah-approved self-help guru James Arthur Ray granted the first interview since three people died in October in his sweat lodge of horrors. If he wants people to think he's innocent, this is exactly the kind of interview he didn't want.
Ray talks to New York magazine's Michael Joseph Gross about the claims that he was negligent when three people died and a dozen fell ill following an intense sweat lodge ritual in Sedona, Arizona, that was supposed to turn them into "spiritual warriors" but instead turned them into a bunch of nasty, vomiting messes. He sticks very closely to his script, avoids giving substantive answers, repeatedly refers to some shady sounding "White Paper," and is told several times by his lawyer not to answer certain questions. This isn't what you hear from an innocent man who is trying to appear contrite, this is a Q&A from someone who is desperately trying to avoid prosecution.
So, what was the line that his defense and PR team dreamed up to try to make him look like a nice, sweet innocent spiritual guide instead of the Dreaded Suana Killer? "The important issue for me is to find the answers to why it occurred and to really bring some closure to this terrible accident," he says and repeats in several different iterations throughout the interview.
As to allegations that he said it was a "good day to die," he says that the death was figurative, and not literal, which means that his statement is the textbook definition of irony. Alanis Morisette take note. What about all that vomit, vomit everywhere? Here is his response when asked if he told participants that puking was good for them:
I may have mentioned that I had been told by many shamans that the body purges and there's only certain ways that it can purge. Obviously, you know the bodily functions, so there's only certain ways that things exit the body.
That sounds like he told them that vomiting was totally alright. Granted the only thing I know about Vision Quests is that Madonna appeared in the movie in the '80s, but a collective cookie toss during this ritual might be a clue that something was amiss.
The freakiest thing about the whole interview though is Ray's so-called "White Paper," the document he and his legal team dreamed up in case he is charged with negligent homicide or any other charges related to the death. First of all the name is creepily transparent (White=innocent, Paper=official) and it says it seeks to "set the record straight" about what happened, but with all it's talk of "samurai games" and "warriors," it makes the whole thing sound like Dianetics on a peyote trip. If this is what Ray's defense is going to look like in court, he better pray to hell he's not charged or the next sweating he's going to be doing is as a butch dude named Curley's cell mate.