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A&E Cancels 'Escaping the KKK' Docu-Series

A&E said Saturday (Dec. 24) it will not move forward with its upcoming documentary Escaping the KKK: A Documentary Series Exposing Hate in Americaafter discovering that the show's producers paid for access to series participants.

The controversial documentary series, which was to focus on the Ku Klux Klan, had generated negative publicity since A&E announced the series earlier this month. The series was set to premiere Jan. 10.

Network officials said in a statement that the producers of the documentary made payments to participants of the series in "direct violation of A&E's policies and practices for a documentary." A&E on Friday changed the name of the series from Generation KKK and enlisted anti-hate organization Color of Change as a partner in the series. 

A&E's statement on the cancellation of the series is as follows: The documentary ‘Escaping the KKK’ was intended to serve as a close look at anti-hate extractors focused on helping people leave the Ku Klux Klan—the racist hate group with a long history of violence against African Americans and others. Our goal with this series has always been to expose and combat racism and hatred in all its forms.  

However, A&E learned last night 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 in order 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.  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.

A&E takes the authenticity of its documentary programming and the subject of racism, hatred and violence very seriously.  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.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.