A&E’s controversial KKK docuseries has had its fair share of drama since it was announced earlier this month. The network received immediate backlash over Escaping the KKK: A Documentary Series Exposing Hate in America, which has since been cancelled after the network revealed in a statement that the production company paid subjects “in order to facilitate access.”
In its latest bit of controversy, Variety reports that KKK leaders featured on the show are now claiming that producers offered them compensation to “distort the facts of their lives” in order to fit the producers’ narrative of the show.
Variety’s Nate Thayer noted that the KKK leaders “detailed how they were wooed with promises the program would capture the truth about life in the organization.” However, producers already had a narrative in mind, one about the tensions between members of the KKK and their family members who wanted out.
Thayer spoke with over two dozen people — who were either members of the KKK or associated with members of the group — who claimed that they were paid hundreds of dollars in cash, were given “pre-scripted fictional story scenarios,” and were told what to say while filming.
“We were betrayed by the producers and A&E,” Richard Nichols told Variety. Nichols was featured in the documentary as the Grand Dragon of the Tennessee White Knights of the Invisible Empire.
He said he was instructed by a producer to use the n-word in interviews and alleged that he was paid $600 a day for his participation in the series. “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.”
“It was the producers who told me they wanted a cross-lighting,” Nichols explained. “In fact they made two cross-lightings cause they wanted to reshoot some scenes. They bought everything — the wood, the burlap to wrap around the wood, the diesel and kerosene for my cross lighting. They even brought all the food for everyone.”
A rep with A&E issued a statement responding to the allegations, which read:
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.
The production company, This Is Just A Test released a statement of its own, which read in part, “We take these allegations very seriously and in partnership with A&E we will be looking into them fully.”
This Is Just A Test also suggested that the KKK members were suddenly speaking out and alleging they were paid to fabricate scenes because of the backlash that the show received. “We have been told that participants in the series have received threats and coerced into speaking out against the authenticity of the show,” according to the statement.
But Nichols maintains that it was all fabricated. “That was 100% the TV guys’ idea and staged,” he said of one scene involving a falling out with someone he was trying to recruit.