NEW YORK -- A&E is scrapping plans for an eight-part documentary series about the Ku Klux Klan after finding out that some participants of the hate group were paid for their work on it.
The network said Saturday it was dropping “Escaping the KKK: A Documentary Series Exposing Hate in America” a day after discovering that “nominal” cash payments were given by third-party producers.
“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 said in statement.
“Escaping the KKK” was to follow people trying to extract themselves from the racist and anti-Semitic hate group. The network had promised that no payments would be made.
“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 network said. “We have now decided not to move forward with airing this project.”
The project triggered wide criticism as soon as it was announced earlier this month. The network, which originally titled the series “Generation KKK,” changed the name and enlisted civil rights groups to collaborate on in-show educational content after getting heat for allowing the KKK’s hate speech to be aired.
The series was to follow four KKK-affiliated families that each have a member seeking to exit the group, with footage shot inside the organization’s functions.
“This series gives viewers an unprecedented look at what it is like to be born into hate,” A&E’s Rob Sharenow previously said in a statement. “Our producers gained access to Klan families, allowing for full immersion into this secret world and its impact on the next generation.”
In the opening scene of a trailer for the now-scrapped series, the Imperial Wizard of the North Mississippi White Knights is shown giving his young children red Klansman hoods and said he hopes his daughter becomes the first woman Imperial Wizard.
“Our goal with this series has always been to expose and combat racism and hatred in all its forms,” A&E said. “A&E takes the authenticity of its documentary programming and the subject of racism, hatred and violence very seriously.”
While U.S. newspapers, magazines and television news divisions do not generally pay subjects for their interviews, some documentary filmmakers do, though the practice is frowned upon.
Errol Morris, the Oscar-winning filmmaker, triggered a debate over the issue in 2008 when he acknowledged that during the making of his film “Standard Operating Procedure,” soldiers who were convicted of tormenting inmates at Abu Ghraib in Iraq were paid for their time.