KKK Leaders Allege Producers Paid Them to Fake Scenes in Canceled A&E Documentary
Nate Thayer, Variety, December 30, 2016
The subjects of a TV documentary series about the Ku Klux Klan abruptly canceled last week by A&E allege to Variety that significant portions of what was filmed were fabricated by the producers.
Some KKK leaders divulged that they were paid hundreds of dollars in cash each day of filming to compel them on camera to distort the facts of their lives to fit the documentary’s predetermined narrative: tension between Klan members and relatives of theirs who wanted to get out of the Klan.
The findings are based on an exclusive Variety investigation based on interviews with over two dozen individuals in and around the KKK who cooperated with the documentary in at least six U.S. states.
Originally scheduled to air Jan. 10, “Escaping the KKK: A Documentary Series Exposing Hate in America” was produced by Venice, Calif.-based production company This Is Just a Test.
The KKK leaders who were interviewed by Variety detailed how they were wooed with promises the program would capture the truth about life in the organization; encouraged not to file taxes on cash payments for agreeing to participate in the filming; presented with pre-scripted fictional story scenarios; instructed what to say on camera; asked to misrepresent their actual identities, motivations and relationships with others, and re-enacted camera shoots repeatedly until the production team was satisfied.
The production team even paid for material and equipment to construct and burn wooden crosses and Nazi swastikas, according to multiple sources including Richard Nichols, who is one of the featured subjects of the documentary series as the Grand Dragon of a KKK cell known as the Tennessee White Knights of the Invisible Empire. He also said he was encouraged by a producer to use the epithet “nigger” in interviews.
“We were betrayed by the producers and A&E,” said Nichols. “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.”