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Cruise Bullies Comedy Central

WWW- HOLLYWOOD bully Tom Cruise got Comedy Central to cancel Wednesday night’s cablecast of a controversial “South Park” episode about Scientology by warning that he’d refuse to promote “Mission Impossible 3,” insiders say.

Since Paramount is banking on “MI3” to rake in blockbuster profits this summer, and Paramount is owned by Viacom, which also owns Comedy Central, the tactic worked.

The “South Park” episode, “Trapped in the Closet,” pokes fun at Scientology and shows Cruise, John Travolta and R. Kelly (who is not a Scientologist, but has a song called “Trapped in the Closet”) literally in a closet.

The episode, which first aired last November, was set to rerun Wednesday night, but was mysteriously pulled at the last minute.

Now, hollywoodinterrupted.com reports Cruise went straight to the top – to execs at Viacom – and warned he’d boycott the promotion for “MI3” unless the “South Park” episode was pulled.

Series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have been told not to discuss the matter – to avoid embarrassing Cruise as they did Isaac Hayes last week when Hayes, also a Scientologist, quit his role as the voice of the Chef character.

Hayes claimed he couldn’t stand by while “South Park” made fun of religion, but Stone pointed out that Hayes had cashed plenty of checks while the show made fun of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Stone hinted that Hayes was pressed to quit by his minders in the Church of Scientology.

A rep for Comedy Central, asked if Cruise was responsible for the “Closet” episode being yanked, attributed it instead to Hayes’ resignation, saying, “In light of the events of earlier this week, we wanted to give Chef an appropriate tribute by airing two episodes he is most known for.” But TV insiders weren’t buying that explanation.

Now the question is whether Comedy Central will ever again air “Trapped in the Closet” and whether it will be included on the DVD of the show’s ninth season.

Cruise has a history of playing hardball. He is allegedly responsible for the missing sex scene his fiancée Katie Homes filmed (before she started dating Tom) in “Thank You for Smoking,” which opens today.

And who will ever forget the way Cruise shouted down Matt Lauer on the “Today” show when Lauer argued that some people have been helped by prescription drugs?

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