KKK Leaders say A&E Producers Paid Them to Do Fake Scenes in Canceled Documentary

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The subjects of a TV documentary series about the Ku Klux Klan abruptly canceled last week by A&E allege to Variety that significant portions of what was filmed were fabricated by the producers.

Some KKK leaders divulged that they were paid hundreds of dollars in cash each day of filming to compel them on camera to distort the facts of their lives to fit the documentary’s predetermined narrative: tension between Klan members and relatives of theirs who wanted to get out of the Klan.

The findings are based on an exclusive Variety investigation 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.

Originally scheduled to air Jan. 10, “Escaping the KKK: A Documentary Series Exposing Hate in America” was produced by Venice, Calif.-based production company This Is Just a Test.

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.

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SOURCE:  
Variety