Members of the Ku Klux Klan who were participating in a now-canceled documentary series for A&E are claiming producers paid them to fabricate scenes for the show.
The show, “Escaping the KKK: A Documentary Series Exposing Hate in America,” was scheduled to premiere Jan. 10.
A&E canceled the series after learning cash payments were made “to facilitate access” to the film’s subjects by the production company, This Is Just a Test (TIJAT).
The show was initially titled “Generation KKK,” but A&E changed it to make it clear the film is a work of documentary journalism rather than reality-TV entertainment.
However, KKK leaders tell Variety that they each were paid hundreds of dollars in cash a day during filming to participate in fabricated scenes designed to fit a predetermined narrative of tension between Klan members and relatives who wanted to get out.
KKK leaders also say they were presented with scripted scenarios, encouraged not to file taxes on the cash payments, instructed about what to say on camera and directed to re-enact camera shoots until the production team got what it needed.
Multiple sources told Variety the production team even paid for material and equipment to make Nazi swastikas and to construct and burn wooden crosses.
One of the featured subjects, Richard Nichols, the grand dragon of a KKK cell known as the Tennessee White Knights of the Invisible Empire, said producers encouraged him to use the word “n****r” when being interviewed.
“We were betrayed by the producers and A&E,” Nichols said. “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.”
The Huffington Post reached out to TIJAT but has received no response. The company had issued a statement to TheWrap.com.
“We take these allegations very seriously and in partnership with A&E we will be looking into them fully,” the statement said. “We fully expected opposition from hate organizations who wish to disparage this series.
“We have been told that participants in the series have received threats and coerced into speaking out against the authenticity of the show.”
The company also addressed A&E’s decision to cancel the series before the airdate:
“We had many many long conversations about how to tackle this subject matter, and we are proud of the program we made. We feel the backlash over the announcement of this series has led to a shoot the messenger mentality.”