A&E Cancels KKK Documentary Series, Says Participants Were Paid in ‘Direct Violation’ of Policies

Generation KKK A&E
Courtesy of A&E

A&E said it would no longer move forward with “Escaping the KKK,” a controversial documentary series that purported to examine the plight of people seeking to extricate themselves from the hate group known as the Ku Klux Klan, citing a recent discovery that producers involved with the show had made financial payments to some of the subjects involved with the program.

The network  said it had learned from producers Friday night that “cash payments — which we currently understand to be nominal — were made in the field to some participants in order to facilitate access,” in a prepared statement released just hours before the start of Christmas Eve. “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.  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.”

A spokesperson for the network was unable to say whether producers might try to find another media outlet to show the series.

The cancellation marks what would seem to be the final step of a gradual backtracking from the effort by the network, which is part of A+E Networks, a media company owned jointly by Walt Disney Co. and Hearst Corp. The program has generated adverse publicity since the network unveiled it, despite what executives had hoped would be become a powerful look at hate-groups in the United States.

Just yesterday, the network changed the name of the eight-part documentary series, which had originally been titled, “Generation KKK.” The announcement of the new program sparked outrage on social-media networks, where actors such as Wendell Pierce and Ellen Pompeo, railed against the effort, though it was not clear whether any of the people criticizing the series had seen any of it for themselves.

Executives at the cable network had said their intentions all along had not been to put a pop-culture spotlight on the Klan, but rather to chronicle efforts to help some members  of the group extricate themselves,and also examines the way that the Klan encourages the indoctrination and recruitment of children. The network had secured endorsements from civil rights leaders associated with the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, and Black Lives Matter, and had planned a social-outreach component for the series. “Escaping the KKK” had been scheduled to launch January 10.

“Canceling the show is the only acceptable decision,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, in a prepared statement. The advocacy group, which campaigns against racial discrimination, had been enlisted by A&E to lend support to the series. “One of the many conditions for Color Of Change’s involvement was that none of the on-air participants were being paid. It was the first commitment A&E made to us and we made it clear when we agreed to support content and marketing changes that we would withdraw if participants were paid,” Robinson said. He called upon the network to “increase the diversity of creative talent” it taps to create its programming and also to do more programs on communities that are often the target of racism.

Cancellation of the series suggests American viewers have grown more sensitive to hate-group activity in the wake of the recent U.S. presidential election. The election of Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th President has lent new energy to several groups that espouse racism and white nationalism. Other networks that have explored similar topics in the recent past have not met with similar reaction. In April, Time Warner’s CNN launched a documentary series, “United Shades of America,” led by comedian and activist W. Kamau Bell. The first episode showed the host, who is African-American, meeting with KKK members in a rural setting.

A&E said it would continue to examine subjects similar to what was examined by the now cancelled project.  “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 company said in its statement.

Read the full statement below:

“The documentary ‘Escaping the KKK’ was intended to serve as a close look at anti-hate extractors focused on helping people leave the Ku Klux Klan—the racist hate group with a long history of violence against African-Americans and others. Our goal with this series has always been to expose and combat racism and hatred in all its forms.

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. 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. 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.

A&E takes the authenticity of its documentary programming and the subject of racism, hatred and violence very seriously. 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.”

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  1. Tony says:

    Who knew so many Klan sympathizers read Variety?

    • Mary says:

      I don’t’ think they are “sympathizers” Tony, they are just addressing the hypocrisy with in the Hollywood community. “Black Lives Matters” is it’s own “Hate Group” and for them to be part of a decision about whether a cable company runs a show shouldn’t be up to them. That’s why it’s cable TV. It’s free speech, free press all that we “advocates” have been fighting for for 100’s of years. They are now becoming their own “Hitler’s”. Dictating ones life. I’m definitely not a KKK sympathizer by all means, but I’m never going to listen to anything Black Lives Matters says in the same way.

  2. IT--II--IT says:

    KKK ( coded 33 ) has –long been unmasked as a front for Intel and conflict creation.

    It was founded by MASON heavy and triple agent, and psychopath, Albert PIKE in the 1800s.

    Again, more FAKED ‘reality’ to control via terror and division.

    TAKE HEED

  3. Za Za Cats says:

    It became an embarrassing sticky wicket, when it was learned just how involved the democratic party was with the beginnings of the KKK, right up to the present day with West Virginia’s Senator Byrd.

  4. Shawn Rech says:

    Direct violation… A cash payment out in the field? So A & E (who I love) is saying their other programs don’t do this?

    Maybe they should just say, “We re-thought this concept and don’t want to move forward.” Because surely that’s the truth here.

  5. Nate Balser says:

    Still not one word of apology for using the wrong flag. Still got the wrong flag. But that’s how it goes when you fake and lie and stage things. This flag is freedom. It is not racists nor does it favor slavery. Believe whatever you want but you cannot change this flag. Perhaps some research and a good history lesson. The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, was ratified on December 15, 1791. It expresses the principle of federalism, which strictly supports the entire plan of the original Constitution for the United States of America, by stating that the federal government possesses only those powers delegated to it by the United States Constitution. All remaining powers are reserved for the states or the people.
    The amendment was proposed by Congress in 1789 during its first term following the Constitutional Convention and ratification of the Constitution. It was considered by many members as a prerequisite of such ratification particularly to satisfy demands by the Anti-Federalism movement that opposed the creation of a stronger U.S. federal government.
    In drafting this amendment, its framers had two purposes in mind: first, as a necessary rule of construction; and second, as a reaffirmation of the nature of the federal system of freedom. The attack on this flag hit the media just one year ago. Do you remember before then? Thanks for doing your little part to help spread the dis info A&E.

    • Tender Puppy! says:

      It doesn’t matter what you think the flag represents. It matters what the flag symbolizes, whether intentionally or inadvertently through certain actions committed in the past. That is the problem. And although some waving that flag may have very basic intentions, that flag has absorbed many negative attributes throughout the decades and conveys a message via those misguided figureheads.

  6. Tender Puppy! says:

    Shame as it would be a thought-provoking documentary, so long as it wasn’t glorified as Caesi Bevis said. I can’t imagine A&E would let it become a Duck Dynasty-esque phenomenon, but then again, that niche faction of America might cling to the figureheads and give them parades and shit. Cringe. Nevertheless, I would like to see it, particularly to learn the stories of those who saw the light and escaped that group of heathens before it was too late. It would be very interesting to learn some provocative insider tales of what really occurs. I also agree with Zeno, that we absolutely should see stories about those who were VICTIMIZED by the KKK as well, because their stories would also shed much light on the most heinous of their horrid practices.

  7. Caesi Bevis says:

    First- I am not a fan of the KKK.

    But for the purpose of “educating the public” – is there a way to re-work the series so that it follows policies and procedures of A&E and does NOT sensationalize the KKK – but instead exposes the “red flags” people in general, and parents, ( or teens) can watch out for to help them recognize racism and people possibly trying to recruit for the KKK?

    As a teen I wished I had been better educated on tell tale signs to be able to tell if my father was just “bragging about being the Klan” in order to scare people – or was he – really- in the Klan? I just knew he was scary.

    I can appreciate if Ellen Pompeo and others are concerned. It’s a delicate walk between sensationalizing something and exposing the truth and educating.

    Is there a neutral third party that could help monitor and enforce the integrity of the documentary?

    The documentary is important – it can save lives, not only literally (targeted people), but also detour people fascinated by the lifestyle – not realizing they could be committing to the life for their lifetime with almost no way out.

    Please do the documentary – but please keep it honest and raw. Reality wake up call is what people need.

    • Lester Bowen says:

      You don’t sound very loyal to your father.

    • Samerica says:

      you are a brainwashed leftist. this was pure left wing propaganda. the leftist are the
      party of the kkk and still not only use blacks and poor people but now illegals to push
      their leftist agenda and get their votes and do nothing for them but make themselves rich.

  8. Jo Mama says:

    The South wasn’t allowed to have police in many regions, since it was too similar to a militia. There was a short while there was no police, and these men took up the duty. It quickly was perverted, but Nathan Bedford Forrest was a great man and not a racist in the slightest. The people who care about the truth still exist, you know, and he’s worthy of deeper research.

  9. Zeno says:

    “the Ku Klux Klan – the racist hate group”
    edit: “the white supremacist terrorist group”. They can’t even call it what it is and they wanna make a show about it? What were they gonna do if a participant got into an altercation with a Black person? Film a KKK member brutalizing an innocent person, and then analyze why they did it on primetime?

    If we wanna talk about hate groups in America, how about a show for the civilians who are victimized by these hate groups first? How they have to live in fear because these people are allowed to politicize their bigotry and get away with it? Can we give them some compassion before the hooded Klansmen running around with nooses????

    • Nate says:

      Amen. This on American Soil. Thankfully the response has been large enough to get this silliness canceled. Let’s hope the same happens when drumpf cancels all funding for countries like Israel–“on the grounds that they can pay for their own defense rather than take $5 billion of U.S. taxpayer money a year for us to do so.”

      This hatred has got to stop.

  10. Dunstan says:

    Perhaps a show about those attempting to extract Republicans from the pending Drumpf “precedency.”

    • Samerica says:

      Dumbstan this was typical left wing propaganda by the left bias media after Trump
      Victory that a majority of states voted for to end the leftist bias progressive agenda!
      the KKK is the party of the demoncraps unless you believe the leftist version of
      history which if you had a brain you could easily look it up! FACTS! DOPE!

      • Frank Smith says:

        “The majority of the American people did not vote for Trump, but those associated with the KKK or any other white supremacist organization certainly did.” —
        Isn’t this the real reason people wanted to have this go to air? Many would try to align this KKK crap with Trump voters – just like you’re trying to do.
        No a majority didn’t vote for Trump, then again he did win more popular votes in every single state – except two: California and New York. So won’t you please try to assail the people of the 48 states who did vote for Trump in greater numbers than Hillary?
        My original point still stands, folks on the “Left” team are desperately trying to make anything bad out of anything associated with Trump, be it “alt right” or KKK. Neither of which, represents the smallest blip on anyone’s radar. Nice try.

      • The Truth says:

        The majority of the American people did not vote for Trump, but those associated with the KKK or any other white supremacist organization certainly did. While the KKK was originally aligned with Dixiecrat politics, those days have been over for decades. So here are the relevant facts, not the Breitbart bullshit: Today’s white supremacists are almost exclusively aligned with the Republican party, principally because both groups support eviscerating government social programs that provide financial aid to poor African Americans and Latinos. So if you think you’re somehow more well-informed about the facts than Dunstan, look up the meaning of the word “delusional.”

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