A&E’s inside look at leaving the Ku Klux Klan won’t make its winter lineup after all. Variety reports the network has canceled Escaping The KKK: A Documentary Series Exposing Hate In America after learning that some of its subjects were paid in order to “facilitate access.” In a press release, A&E iterated its intentions to “expose and combat racism and hatred in all its forms” with a show that purportedly would have seen “anti-hate extractors” try to disentangle people born into the hate group’s lineage. After partnering with groups like the Anti-Defamation League and Color Of Change, A&E swore that it wasn’t looking to glamorize the KKK or present the series as some kind of wacky reality-TV take on the racist institution.
This was one of the major points of contention when the docu-series was first announced, including concerns that such a program would only serve to normalize white supremacist groups that must be feeling particularly emboldened after seeing their candidate of choice nab the presidency. A&E went on the defensive last week, first renaming the show Escaping The KKK: A Documentary Series Exposing Hate In America (it was originally the ambiguous Generation KKK). Network execs also drew a distinction between a reality series like, say, Duck Dynasty—where there are SAG contracts but the bigotry’s mostly offscreen—and a docu-series that has no such pay structure. But third-party producers recently disclosed they’d paid some participants “nominally” in order to facilitate filming. Even if its goals were to expose the racism at the core of the group, the waters have been muddied, so A&E’s opted to pull the show.
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.
The network’s not giving up on the subject matter, though, insisting in the same statement that “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.”