KKK documentary cancelled due to participants being paid off on the side

Third-party producers for US Network A&E were discovered to be paying KKK members for access into the lives of the white supremacist group

Rachael Pells
Monday 26 December 2016 13:07 GMT
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The Ku Klux Klan has an estimated 3,000-8,000 members across the US
The Ku Klux Klan has an estimated 3,000-8,000 members across the US

A documentary detailing the lives of Ku Klux Klan members has been cancelled after it was revealed that participants had been paid off by producers.

Eight-part series "Escaping the KKK" follows three high-ranking group members and their families in Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee in the US.

The first episode was due to be aired by US television network A&E on January 10, but was pulled at the last minute after concerns were raised over the ethics of the show’s production.

A&E network officials said in a statement on its website: “Our goal with this series has always been to expose and combat racism and hatred in all its forms.

“However, [A&E learned] 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 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.”

The network had previously provided assurances to the public and its partners that no payment was made to “hate group members”, as was believed to be the case at the time.

Since its announcement in mid-December, the series has faced public backlash, with concerns raised that the documentary could help to promote the hate group.

On Saturday, A&E said: “We have now decided not to move forward with airing this project”.

Spokespersons said the network still plans to tackle serious issues such as “racism, hatred and violence”, despite the KKK series losing validity.

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“Just because this particular show goes away, the issues of hate in America do not,” officials said.

Filming for “Escaping the KKK”, originally titled “Generation KKK” began 18 months ago, soon before the Klan publicly endorsed Donald Trump for president.

The series focuses on three members: Steven Howard, known as the Imperial Wizard for the North Mississippi White Knights division, Chris Buckley, a Grand Nighthawk with the North Georgia White Knights, and Richard Nichols, the Grand Dragon in the Tennessee Knights of The Invisible Empire.

The series’ producer, Aengus James, had previously said that his intention was to show the day-to-day lives of Klan members.

In an interview with the New York Times, he said: “We had a stance, and we were clear with folks that we were hoping for them to see the light and come out of this world.

“It’s an incredibly destructive environment for anybody to be in, let alone children.”

The KKK, defined as a “racist, anti-Semitic movement with a commitment to extreme violence to achieve its goals of racial segregation and white supremacy” by the Anti-Defamation League, has an estimated 3,000-8,000 members across the US.

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