A&E Networks has launched an independent investigation into the production of Escaping the KKK after allegations surfaced in December that some participants on the now-cancelled docuseries were offered cash to participate.
In a statement, A&E said it had “already made the decision to cancel this documentary series based on recently discovered payment practices of the producers in the field and we are conducting a full independent investigation into the production.”
The production company behind the series, L.A.-based This Is Just a Test, said in its own statement that it welcomes the network’s probe.
“We take these allegations very seriously. In coordination with A&E we are investigating them fully,” a spokesperson for the company said in an email to realscreen.
The eight-part series, Escaping the KKK: A Documentary Series Exposing Hate in America, was expected to air in Jan. 10 on A&E. However, it was cancelled Dec. 24 by the A+E Networks flagship channel when allegations of pay for access surfaced.
“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,” the network stated at the time.
The series was originally titled Generation KKK but was renamed as to ensure “no one can mistake its intent and that the title alone does not serve to normalize the Klan” said the network in a separate statement issued Dec. 23. It follows four Klan families who have members looking to escape the hate organization, and the activists supporting them in leaving the white supremacist group.
In making the decision to cancel the project, the network said that while it stands behind the intent of the series, “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.”
This Is Just A Test said it stands by its work and does so with the support of the show’s crew and activists who worked on the series.
The prodco’s spokesperson said the company had anticipated backlash from those who would try to discredit the series. Specifically,”those who continue to push out a platform of hate and those who regret revealing their true intentions as deeply racist and hateful individuals do not want this project to be released.”
“So far, they’ve done a surprisingly good job of getting media to hear their objections,” the spokesperson said.
Pictured: Arno Michaelis, peace activist featured on Escaping the KKK.