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Defamer has learned that executives at Sony tried to have an MSNBC story outing Will Smith as a closeted Scientologist killed. With the Smith tentpole Hancock slated for a July release, execs are clearly worried their big summer blockbuster will turn into another Mission:Impossible 3 conundrum, when Tom Cruise's anything-but-glib antics spurred petitions against the film and damaged the film's B.O. on both the domestic and international fronts. In an effort to prevent a similar shitshow come July, our source claims Sony forced a denial statement out of Smith after MSNBC stuck by their original story:

"After word got out that Will was a secret Scientologist, reps from Sony [the studio behind Hancock] completely flipped out, and asked that the online exclusive be taken down immediately. After being refused, Sony forced Smith to speak out and release a denial statement."

But how did his friends in the Church take the news? Find out after the jump.

As our source explained, it appears the folks at Sony weren't the only ones up in arms about the Smith and Scientology claims. Apparently Will and his family have been giving money to the Church for years, though they've done a fantastic job keeping their donations under the radar. Says our source, "After Smith's Scientologist friends saw the denial today, they got incredibly pissed and some asked him, 'you're still gonna donate money, right?'" Considering the secretive nature of many celebrity Scientologists, coupled with an urgent request from a major studio to remove a rumor on a gossip site, it's time to take this story up a notch from rumor to fact. Since when do execs at a studio as powerful as Sony reach out to news-gathering organizations and attempt to use their leverage in order to kill potentially damaging stories? Oh yeah, that's right, since forever! We applaud the folks over at MSNBC for sticking to their guns (and their story).