KKK Leaders Allege Producers Paid Them to Fake Scenes in Canceled A&E Documentary (EXCLUSIVE)

Generation KKK
Courtesy of A+E

A&E to conduct investigation to probe what happened during production

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.

“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.”

The purported quality of the program, originally known as “Generation KKK,” helped draw the support of organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and Color of Change, which A&E publicized. But that didn’t keep “Generation KKK” from being accused on social media of providing a platform for a hate group. The network subsequently retitled the series, a decision Sharenow explained to Variety on Dec. 23 reflected its standing as a “pure documentary.”

But the very next day “Escaping the KKK” was suddenly canceled. As its Dec. 24 announcement revealed, the cable network made the surprise move after being made aware of payments made by the production company to Klan members, contrary to assurances the company said were made to advocacy organizations that supported the series and the public.

“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,” read a statement issued by the network.

The cancellation occurred less than 24 hours after this reporter contacted several producers at TIJAT with the allegations contained in this story. Those same producers, according to multiple KKK members who participated in the documentary, subsequently warned them not to speak to this reporter if contacted.

But sources close to the production also cast doubt on the testimony of KKK leaders, describing them as inveterate liars motivated by an agenda to scuttle a series that could make them look bad if it ever aired and prone to confusing being manipulated with aggressive questioning from producers.

What prompted Nichols to share his life with TV viewers was a solicitation via email from a TIJAT producer, which he summarized as saying, “We want to show everyone the real truth about the Klan.” Nichols, who can trace his lineage back to one of the founding members of the KKK, said he allowed TIJAT into his home in Pulaski, Tenn., and the KKK circles in which he traveled for anywhere from three to eight days at a time each month for a period that lasted four or five months in mid-2016.

But as Nichols describes it, the production had little interest in accurately reflecting his life. Instead, he says TIJAT producers manipulated nearly every aspect of what appeared on camera, right down to making sure his choice of words during interviews was sufficiently objectionable.

“They kept asking me, wanting me, to use the word ‘nigger,’” said Nichols, who alleged he was paid $600 per day by producers to participate. “I was sitting down being filmed and interviewed with the lights and the backdrop set up, and I said something and used the word ‘blacks.’ Then the producer interrupted me and said ‘No, no, no. We want him to use the word “nigger!”’’’

TIJAT producers went so far as to orchestrate more than one cross-burning ceremony in Pulaski, though it is presented in the documentary as if the KKK is actually hosting the event. “We’ve been allowed special access to film this secret induction,” reads a title card that precedes one of the cross-burning scenes.

“It was the producers who told me they wanted a cross-lighting,” recounted Nichols. “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.”

Nichols’ storyline in the documentary series involves his efforts to recruit a young man, Cody Hutt, into the KKK. But their dynamic was also less than truthful: Hutt made it clear to the producers he was never seriously considering joining the KKK, but he was willing to take $200 per day from them to act the part. “From the first day, I sat them (down) and told them I had no interest in joining the Klan,” said Hutt.

As TIJAT’s cameras capture, the tension between Nichols and Hutt reaches the boiling point when Hutt brings an anti-hate activist, Bryon Widner, to Nichols’ home to help convince Nichols to leave Hutt alone. When Nichols learns who Widner is, he angrily demands he leaves the house, even threatening to kill Widner.

But Nichols and Hutt say the scene was a fabrication. “That was 100% the TV guys’ idea and staged,” said Nichols.

“When me and Richard had a fall(ing) out and he was mad because I wouldn’t join—they staged that all,” said Hutt.

Nichols is one of four separate Klan members who are the focus of the documentary series, which also chronicles separate cells of the hate group operating in Mississippi, Georgia and Kentucky.

The Klan activity in Tennessee was not the only one with fabricated elements; sources knowledgeable of what transpired among all four featured Klan groups where TIJAT shot described similar circumstances.

In Kentucky, which unlike the other three areas is not depicted in the first four episodes of the series provided to TV critics, TIJAT producers weren’t above turning its documentary subjects into fictional characters.

“They told me to find someone who was family that was against my beliefs,” said Dan Elmquist, the Imperial Wizard of the Kentucky-based Nordic Order of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, who reports getting $500 a day to participate. “They were trying to get my wife and me to say that my wife didn’t like me involved in Klan stuff, but my wife is a member of the Klan. So we filmed with my Nighthawk’s wife saying she was my cousin and acting as the ‘anti-Klan’ person. A&E knew she wasn’t my cousin or against the Klan.”

The “Nighthawk”–which is KKK terminology for a clan’s chief of security—for the Nordic Order Knights who confirmed Elmquist’s account in an interview is Chris Brasher of Bowling Green, Ken. (When Elmquist and Brasher refers to “A&E,” they are not referring to the network, but producers from TIJAT. )

“A&E would give me an order of what to say–it was scripted,” said Brasher, who also reported getting $500 per day. “My wife isn’t a member of the Klan. A&E was telling her to say to me ‘If you don’t leave the Klan I am going to leave you. I don’t want to leave my husband, but if he doesn’t leave the Klan I will.’ “It was a joke, really. My wife and I get along fine. She was never going to leave me because I am in the Klan. A&E made that all up and told us what to say.”

But sources close to the production say that whatever interviews Brasher sat for were not intended for the documentary’s first season, and that it could have been for a demo reel for another season.

A&E’s payment policies for unscripted series have already created other problems for the network. Citing “Escaping the KKK” earlier this week, an attorney representing the Church of Scientology accused A&E of hypocrisy by alleging that two of the participants in the docuseries “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” were paid to appear on camera. The network hasn’t responded to the Church’s charge.

On the Tennessee shooting location of the KKK documentary, Nichols and Hutt describe being paid by a man with a blue, rectangular bank money bag, which he would unzip and hand out $50 or $100 bills.

Of the leaders of the four Ku Klux Klan groups featured on the TV series, only one denied receiving payments for his participation. “I was never paid a dime but I wished they did,” said Steve Howard, Imperial Wizard for the North Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, on Dec. 24.

But on Dec. 26, Howard lashed out on his Facebook account demanding $100,000 payments from A&E and the film production company for money he said was promised and owed him. “Tomorrow by 11 I start singing. So someone better take care of it. I want lost wages,” wrote Howard. “They can buy me out or I start singing.”

Howard took down his Facebook posts less than 24 hours later.

What is still unclear is which entities had foreknowledge of the fabrications. While it is conceivable A&E could have learned what was going on via communication between the network and production during the shoot, it is also possible that the network was kept in the dark. Even the principals of the production company itself may not have had complete knowledge of how individual producers were conducting themselves on the ground at shoots.

But the documentary raises troubling questions as to how much responsibility and oversight a network should have over the content of programming it licenses to air.

In addition, the series exposes the often blurry line in TV programming between the traditional documentary, in which filmmakers typically take a fly-on-the-wall approach minimizing interference in the action unfolding in front of their cameras, with so-called reality TV like A&E’s own hit “Duck Dynasty,” which may appear to be cinema verite to unsophisticated viewers but is almost as controlled by producers as scripted dramas or comedies, with real people essentially functioning as paid actors.

The lure of easy money certainly has its allure to KKK members and their families living in some of the poorest regions of the country. Hutt, a 22-year-old high-school dropout who lives with his mother, readily admits that getting paid by producers was his motivation for helping distort the truth.

“Hey, I loved the money. Don’t get me wrong; I wanted them to come back,” he confessed. “Now I don’t want anything to do with them.”

Nate Thayer is a freelance journalist based in Washington D.C.

 

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  1. marblenecltr says:

    If you want truth, put down the remote, leave NWO MSM, read “Variety.”

  2. The One says:

    Funny stuff, they had to pay people to be more racist? I just cannot stop laughing. The twenty idiots they managed to find who call themselves KKK members had to be paid and supplied with racist materials so they could even have a show. Sick minds on the left. You just cannot make this stuff up…

  3. I was on season #1 of 60 DAYS IN. An A&E fake reality show where 7 innocent people go to jail. Part of the jail interviews where done in New York City! Yes, a fake backdrop and they gave me an orange jumpsuit to wear then fed me lines for the camera. I can’t decide what was the saddest part of the show:
    * Inmates not getting help for their addiction.
    * Some inmates forced to sign release forms to be filmed or get “30 days in the hole.”
    * Corrections officers not getting paid to be on the show.
    * Producers lying numerous times and walking away with a bigger bank at others people expense.

    I contacted A&E and told them the truth. They swept it under the rug. Oh well, the jail experience made me a better person :-)

  4. Lenny says:

    And yet, they took the money. I wish every conversation in this country would not end with money being the most important thing.

  5. mike J says:

    This is really odd. Why would anyone want a hate group to be MORE hateful than they actually are?

  6. JonInVa says:

    Isn’t it ironic how you never hear a peep about Klan-related crime or terror? Yet every day brings a new story of black on black, black on brown, black on white crime? I would suspect it’s more dangerous for a black male in Chicago than one living next door to a KKK member.

  7. Ashley West says:

    A & E had better reevaluate the “whites are all racists” meme that has prevailed during the Obama administration. What happened to the NFL because of Colin Kaepernick could easily happen to them. Can they afford to loose a huge chunk of their audience just to keep up the leftist narrative?

  8. I’m 65 yo and have lived in the south my whole life. I haven’t seen more than maybe 10 actual KKK members in my entire life. I’ve seen more Black Panthers than KKK. The KKK is some sort of myth carried over from ages gone by. Being prejudiced is NOT the same as putting on a sheet and marching around. The big secret seems to be that the bigots are all Democrats. Everyone I’ve seen with open bigotry is a Democrat, north or south.

  9. Janice Kozak says:

    A&E just lost credibility. If they aspired to lower themselves to junk programming, they succeeded. Too bad. One more collection of fools akin to the idiocy of cnn and msnbc. I used to think their programming was pretty good. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice? Turning you off!

  10. John Medina says:

    More fake news from the liberal left. Basic rules of thumb: if it comes from a liberal, it is a lie.

  11. gorbud says:

    What is the BIG deal?? Michael Moore has been doing this for years. So we now have Fake News, Fake Documentaries and fake boobs. Surprise! Surprise! Will wonders never cease?? ALL politics is fake if you could be bothered to look.

    Keep watching the Kardashans and whatever housewives they are pushing this week. Being an uninformed dope has its’ advantages. You never see or know what hit you when your stupidity becomes just too much for you to function from day to day.

  12. direwolf says:

    How about calling it “That KKK Thing You Do” (when the money’s right).

  13. Frank says:

    Another liberal outlet (A&E) trying to create fake news.

  14. Ralph Compton says:

    Another “documentary” shut down. TV “news” for the most part is slanted and very biased. Make the whites appear as bad as possible while showing all blacks and latinos as mistreated and enslaved by whites. Piss on TV “documentaries” This has gained ground in the 8 years of the reign of the feral 1/2 breed pos Muslim.

  15. Rand E Oertle says:

    If it’s produced by liberals, it’s fake.

  16. Joe says:

    What is there to escape? If you see their rallies they are in the 10’s and 20’s. The Klan is dead.

  17. Even A&E is not above fake news…

  18. phil says:

    Main Stream TV, aimed at the lowest common denominator. Greed has always been a great motivator. The Network to the producers, to the “actors.” this is all b.s. There is no real KKK. You coouldl fit every member of The Klan…into a meeting room at IHOP. You may even double that amount if you paid each attendee…FIDY bux! You think there is a difference between A&E, and your nightly Network Newscast? Very little.

  19. Lenny Dykstrb says:

    If you can’t find enough (white) hate, invent some, it’s easy.

  20. Henryttt says:

    No !!! The media would hype something up for their own gain ?????

  21. Greg says:

    Darn it! Isn’t there anything real anymore? Next you’re gonna tell me the KKK didn’t take Joey Ramone’s girl friend away.

  22. aubreyfarmer says:

    4 Jews and 4 Catholics on the Supreme Court. Protestants comprise 47.9% of U.S. population according to Wikipedia and yet there is not a single Protestant on the Supreme Court. Raise your hand if you are gullible enough to think it isn’t a conspiracy. Main stream media is controlled by Communists and the Roman Catholic Church by fascists. The United States is approaching a climactic shift in power and those that have the power are going to do whatever is necessary to stay in power. Power to the people is not going to happen without a fight.

  23. timefortrump says:

    I knew it was fake as soon as I saw that anti-White racist scum Daryle Lamont Jenkins was involved. He has this stupid group – One People’s Project – he is for illegal immigration and Black power and he hates White people and sees the KKK under every rock. /spit on you Daryle

  24. Al Sharpton says:

    How come you don’t see BLM, The New Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam, Ivy league university millennials protesting these Klan rallies?

  25. Jtom says:

    Either TIJAT unsuccessfully tried to con A&E, or they were outsmarted by the KKK. They must choose between being corrupt and incredibly stupid.

  26. John Dendy says:

    A&E will not appear my TV again

  27. Tomas Cora says:

    A$E can do a reality show with that racist hate group Black Lives Matter. Blocking roads and bridges, riots, arson and chanting death to police is a lot more exciting then filming a Klan parade with 10 hooded hicks.

  28. I don’t get it— if you’re going to invent fictional stories, why bother finding “real” KKK members to do it? Why not just hire actors or random extras and pretend like they’re KKK? Makes no sense.

    • Jtom says:

      Would you go on TV and claim to be a KKK member? That’s something that only a member would do. An actor would never get another job.

  29. Hank Smith says:

    The KKK, part of the Democratic Party & still the driving ideology of Democrats everywhere. Hate & Intimidation, shut down Free Speech, put Minorities in their pace & control their lives.

  30. Ron Ryall says:

    I’ve lived in the South all my life, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, I have never known a KKK member, never heard anyone talk about the KKK. These days it’s just a myth. I know their are a few extremists who may call themselves KKK members, but there’s no real organization. This whole thing is just a way to sir people into a frenzy over nothing, just to make money. Shame, Shame!

    • Michael says:

      I’ve said the same thing many times. I was born in Alabama and spent five years in Florida, eighteen years in Mississippi, and thirty in South Carolina. I’ve never personally known a Klansman, never seen a Klan rally, never seen a burning cross, etc. The Klan is irrelevant today, and has been for many years.

      • Greg says:

        You know that the Democrat party owned slavery. The KKK all Democrats, Jim Crow created by Democrats, Governors blocking desegregation all Democrats. Sheriffs using water cannons and dogs on civil rights marchers ALL DEMOCRATS

      • timefortrump says:

        Exactly 100% correct – the left is trying to resurrect the Klan as their straw man. Meanwhile we have BLM haters killing cops, burning down stores and rioting and disrupting commerce in many places – but that’s not news or relevant to the leftist sh1tbag media. The mainstream media companies are SO irrelevant and fake.

  31. bart says:

    Have you mocked the media, and A&E, today?

    • Greg says:

      The KKK is not irrelevant for the Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Group. They use the KKK to generate hatred against whites and that’s how they make money.

  32. bart says:

    The KKK&E channel?

  33. Chris Long says:

    No KKK TV show is needed from A&E. We already know
    how any such show will play out, what the MSM will say,
    and they will manipulate anything to show it their way.

  34. What a wonderful world... says:

    When my son was a baby a friend of my wife’s family cared for our infant son while we worked. One day she abruptly told us she could no longer care for our child. 2 weeks later she and her Family were on the Sally Jesse Rafael show renouncing her and her Families ties to the klan. We were shocked and had no idea they were involved. I was blown away die to the fact that they had a gay son and were members of a hate group. A hate group that hated gays, but yet they loved their son. People are a mess.

  35. Jay Stmeple says:

    I know people who work in the TV industry. I hate to break everyone’s heart, but reality TV could not be further from Reality. What is described in the above article is the NORM for these “reality” productions.

  36. Jack says:

    The whole purpose of the liberal takeover of mainstream media, as well as the liberal takeover of our educational institutions, is to spread propaganda…to dumb down our society….to help conquer and divide us…black vs white…gay vs straight…Christian vs atheist…as long as everybody is fighting each other, chasing imaginary rascism…we don’t notice the real bigots stealing our country and selling out our children’s future to offshore corporations and banking entities

  37. Daniel M Roth says:

    Come on, what’s the big deal? It’s all just pure nonsense!

  38. John Oakman says:

    NEVER TRUST the MEDIA.

  39. I’m shocked to hear that the Liberal media might have paid other to make-up fake news! Also I suspect that the Russians might have had a hand in all this!

  40. Something on television faked? Who would have thunk?

  41. Glenn61 says:

    What KKK…?,, the Ku Klux Klan were a post civil war Democrat group and were finally dislodged from power in the late 60s. The Ku-Klux-Klown idiots you see today parading around in white robes and hoods are just mal-content hicks.

  42. aleric says:

    I smell the SPLC in this, they simply cant get over the fact that the KKK has virtually no memebers and do nothing more than meet up and talk about the old days. The Left has a blind eye on all the Muslim compounds springing up across the country with Sharia law enacted but think a bunch of do nothing has beens.

  43. The fraudsters and fakers are the ADL for insulting Southern Whites. This series is as fake as the ADL’s hate crimes!

  44. Ge Ka says:

    “TIJAT is currently negotiating with A&E to get the rights back to “Escaping the KKK”….”

    Why would A&E consider that rather than promptly initiating a civil suit against TIJAT based on breach of contract and/or similar theories?

  45. Joe American says:

    A&E stands for arts and entertainment NOT TRUTH and HONESTY! What else can you expect from “liberal dems” but LIES and DECEIT?

  46. The Democrats created the KKK, they need to do a show about that. Rather than try to gin up hatred against the Klan who are almost extinct and are really more about Confederate history than separating races now a days, A&E should do investigation into the BLM people. Now here’s where the real hate and violence is. Attacking people because of their skin color, killing cops, wanting special rights, here’s where the action is. In fact go undercover in the BLM and maybe infiltrate some of the mosques around NYC and a few other major cities. These places are where the action will be. A few rednecks in the hills of Georgia and Tennessee that don’t have two nickles to rub together, they aren’t going to do anything. But BLM and Radical Muslims have been quite active in death and destruction. Come on A&E, do you want action or what!!?

  47. Thomas Ray says:

    Of course it was FAKE—The REAL KKK does NOT use the Confederate Battle flag. Its official flag is the US “Stars and stripes”—only wannabe rednecks and Hollywood productions use the battle flag.—And we of the “Sons of Confederate Veterans”, a non-political, Historian and heritage organization, have a patent on it. We Abhor the misuse of OUR flag and have taken actions on racist groups, when possible, to preserve the dignity of it and our Confederate ancestors.

  48. James Lappin says:

    Fake news, fake reality shows, fake fake fake!

  49. GBY says:

    Anyone who has even had the slightest professional contact with the entertainment industry, such as extras, know that producers and directors control the narrative.

    Regardless whether it’s a scripted show or “reality” TV. A & E put their name on a fake “documentary”.

  50. More proof that 99% of ‘reality TV’ is scripted and staged.

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