Ku Klux Klan members who were to be the subjects of a reality television series about their lives have alleged that producers of the show paid them to fake scenes, recite specific dialogue and even paid for materials for cross burnings.
A&E canceled its series Escaping the KKK: A Documentary Exposing Hate in America last week after the network announced it had discovered that cash payments were made to some of the subjects of the series “in order to facilitate access.”
The highly controversial documentary was to explore the relationships of Klan members and their families, including those trying to leave the white supremacist group, and was advertised to viewers as a no-holds-barred account of life inside the organization.
But according to an investigation by Variety, some KKK members featured in the documentary allege they were instructed by producers to do and say certain things, including using the racial slur “n*gger” in interviews and to re-shoot certain scenes until the production was satisfied.
“We were betrayed by the producers and A&E,” one of the series’ subjects, KKK Grand Dragon Richard Nichols, told Variety. “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.”
Nichols told the outlet he was approached to appear in the series by producers who said they wanted to show what life was really like in the Klan. But Nichols claims he was paid $600 per day to participate in the series and that scenes involving himself and a young man he attempted to “recruit” into the KKK were all made up, as were scenes involving a cross burning in his hometown of Pulaski, Tennessee.
“It was the producers who told me they wanted a cross-lighting,” he told Variety. “In fact they made two cross-lightings cause they wanted to reshoot some scenes. They bought everything—the wood, the burlap to wrap around the wood, the diesel and kerosene for my cross lighting. They even brought all the food for everyone.”
Two leaders of other KKK groups featured in the series claim they were paid $500 per day to participate and said they had played along with pre-planned storylines at the request of producers.
A spokesperson for A&E said the network planned to conduct a “full independent investigation” into the production, while production company This Is Just A Test offered its own statement.
“We take these allegations very seriously and in partnership with A&E we will be looking into them fully,” the statement said. “We have been told that participants in the series have received threats and coerced into speaking out against the authenticity of the show.”
Escaping the KKK was scheduled to premiere on A&E on January 10. A rep for the network did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum