Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Klan Members Claim A&E Paid Them to Fabricate Scenes for Docuseries

Peace activist Arno Michaelis, left, speaks with Chris Buckley, the Grand Knighthawk for the North Georgia White Knights, on A&E’s documentary series “Generation KKK.”(This is Just a Test/A&E via AP)
Peace activist Arno Michaelis, left, speaks with Chris Buckley, the Grand Knighthawk for the North Georgia White Knights, on A&E’s documentary series “Escaping the KKK: A Documentary Series Exposing Hate in America”

*Participants of A&E’s planned documentary series about the Ku Klux Klan claim that a significant portion of the filmed scenes were fabricated by producers in pursuit of the show’s predetermined narrative: tension between Klan members and relatives of theirs who wanted to get out of the Klan, reports Variety.

Some KKK leaders told the publication they were paid hundreds of dollars in cash each day of filming to compel them on camera to distort the facts of their lives in support of the narrative.

Variety says its exclusive investigation was based on interviews with over two dozen individuals in and around the KKK who cooperated with the documentary in at least six U.S. states.

The show, “Escaping the KKK: A Documentary Series Exposing Hate in America,” was produced by Venice, Calif.-based production company This Is Just a Test and was supposed to premiere on Jan. 10 before it was cancelled amid public outrage.

Below are more details of A&E’s alleged trickery via Variety:

The KKK leaders who were interviewed by Variety detailed how they were wooed with promises the program would capture the truth about life in the organization; encouraged not to file taxes on cash payments for agreeing to participate in the filming; presented with pre-scripted fictional story scenarios; instructed what to say on camera; asked to misrepresent their actual identities, motivations and relationships with others, and re-enacted camera shoots repeatedly until the production team was satisfied.

The production team even paid for material and equipment to construct and burn wooden crosses and Nazi swastikas, according to multiple sources including Richard Nichols, who is one of the featured subjects of the documentary series as the Grand Dragon of a KKK cell known as the Tennessee White Knights of the Invisible Empire. He also said he was encouraged by a producer to use the epithet “nigger” in interviews.

“We were betrayed by the producers and A&E,” said Nichols. “It was all made up—pretty much everything we said and did was fake and because that is what the film people told us to do and say.”

Asked about allegations, a rep for A&E declined comment beyond issuing a statement that made clear the company is going to take the additional step of conducting a probe of the production: “A&E had already made the decision to cancel this documentary series based on recently discovered payment practices of the producers in the field and we are conducting a full independent investigation into the production.”

Production company TIJAT also issued a statement in response to the allegations, which suggested participants are being intimidated into tarnishing the show.

“We take these allegations very seriously and in partnership with A&E we will be looking into them fully,” a portion of its statement read. “We have been told that participants in the series have received threats and coerced into speaking out against the authenticity of the show.”

Led by principals Aengus James and Colin Miller, TIJAT is a prolific producer of unscripted TV series for cable networks such as TLC’s “I Am Jazz” and Animal Planet’s “Project Grizzly,” as well as theatrical documentaries and commercials. TIJAT is currently negotiating with A&E to get the rights back to “Escaping the KKK” with the intent of shopping it to another network. Producers told KKK leaders who participated in the documentary prior to the cancellation that a second season was being discussed with the network.

The allegations are in stark contradiction to how the eight-episode series was positioned to the public by both A&E and TIJAT.

“This show is not rehearsed or prepackaged,” said Rob Sharenow, executive vice president and general manager of A&E and Lifetime told The Hollywood Reporter on Dec. 19. “These filmmakers knew that they weren’t going in making a reality show, they were making a hard-hitting series about a provocative subject.”

Read the full story at Variety.com.

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