A&E cancels controversial KKK reality show after learning producers paid klansmen for access
A&E scrapped plans to air its upcoming docuseries “Escaping the KKK” (previously entitled “Generation KKK”) after discovering producers shelled out cash to klansman in exchange for access, Variety reports.
In a statement released Saturday, the network said the project, which promised to offer an “unprecedented” look inside the hate group, pulled the series after learning the producers embedded among the klansman made “nominal” “cash payments” to some of the participants.
“Our goal with this series has always been to expose and combat racism and hatred in all its forms,” the network said in a statement. “However, A&E learned last night from the third-party producers who made the documentary that cash payments—which we currently understand to be nominal—were made in the field to some participants in order to facilitate access.”
A&E immediately drew ire for the show, with critics blasting the network for normalizing and glorifying white supremacy by offering members of the group a platform to discriminate hate. Following the criticism, the A&E changed the show’s title and partnered with the civil rights group Color of Change to reframe the show’s intent, insisting its goal was to provide viewers with firsthand accounts of “the struggles with the internal families” of the KKK.
In its statement Saturday, the network said is stands by the show’s content, but notes cash payments are in direct violation of company policy.
“While we stand behind the intent of the series and the seriousness of the content, these payments are a direct violation of A&E’s policies and practices for a documentary,” the statement read. “We had previously provided assurances to the public and to our core partners—including the Anti-Defamation League and Color of Change—that no payment was made to hate group members, and we believed that to be the case at the time. We have now decided not to move forward with airing this project.”
The network iterated its commitment to a message of anti-hate, which A&E Executive Vice President Robert Sharenow previously insisted was at the heart of the docuseries.
“A&E takes the authenticity of its documentary programming and the subject of racism, hatred and violence very seriously,” the statement read. “Just because this particular show goes away, the issues of hate in America do not. We will still seek to fight hate in America through on-air programming including town halls and documentary programs produced in partnership with civil rights organizations, as well as continue to work with the civil rights community to facilitate a deeper dialogue on ending hate through comprehensive educational and outreach campaigns.”
The show was set to premiere on Jan. 10. Since it’s announcement, A&E scrubbed its social media feed of promotional material, including a 7-minute preview widely shared on Twitter.