NEW YORK, Dec. 25 (UPI) — Cable TV network A&E has pulled the plug on a controversial forthcoming documentary series that aimed to illuminate the inner workings of the Ku Klux Klan, officials said this weekend.
The network, which produces numerous reality series, said in a statement Saturday that it decided to scrap the eight-part docu-series after learning that producers gave cash payments to KKK members for access.
Though the payment amounts were “nominal,” A&E said handing over the money violated its documentary practices policy. The network learned of the payments from a third party on Friday, it said.
“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,” the statement said. “We have now decided not to move forward with airing this project.”
The recently rebranded series was set to take viewers inside four different families of group leaders in Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee, each of which had a member trying to escape life in the KKK.
The original title was “Generation KKK,” but the network changed it to “Escaping the KKK: A Documentary Series Exposing Hate in America” to eliminate any potential the program might be viewed as a romanticization of life in the hate group.
“A&E takes the authenticity of its documentary programming and the subject of racism, hatred and violence very seriously,” the network added. “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 … to facilitate a deeper dialogue on ending hate.
“Our goal with this series has always been to expose and combat racism and hatred in all its forms.”
The series, produced in association with multiple civil rights groups and scheduled to debut Jan. 10, generated substantial criticism upon its announcement last week, including calls to boycott the show.
“We certainly didn’t want the show to be seen as a platform for the views of the KKK,” A&E General Manager Rob Sharenow said last week. “The only political agenda is that we really do stand against hate.”
The Anti-Defamation League worked with the network during production of the series, which began more than a year ago. The NAACP and Black Lives Matter movement were also involved with A&E’s production.