A&E has canceled the docuseries following the lives of Ku Klux Klan members attempting to leave the hate group after learning some participants had been compensated for participation.
The network made the revelation about the newly renamed “Escaping KKK,” formerly “Generation KKK,” Saturday, Dec. 24, and revealed a third-party production company gave “nominal” cash payments to “facilitate access” for certain KKK members featured in the project.
“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 statement read in part. “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.”
As for the likelihood of “Escaping KKK” finding a new home on another network or streaming source, an A&E spokesperson could not provide Variety with a comment.
When the series was announced Monday, Dec. 19, it was immediately met with backlash over normalizing racism, according to Atlanta Black Star. Wendell Pierce was one of many who called for a boycott over the program, which Variety reported Dec. 23 was renamed “Escaping the KKK: A Documentary Series Exposing Hate in America.” The reason was to emphasize that the show was not meant to show support for the hate group but to explore the ways members welcome children and also spotlight those who wished to leave it. Additionally, A&E, which was due to air the program Jan. 10, revealed a partnership with Color of Change.
“We are pleased to see that the network is taking seriously concerns that the show … required important additional components,” Color of Change executive director Rashad Robinson told Variety in a statement. “Such as specific in-show educational context and content and a postshow town hall, as we both want to work together to ensure that it did not normalize and humanize racism and white supremacy.”
A&E’s general manager and executive vice president Rob Sharenow had also clarified that the project was not a reality show, as some believed based on the network’s other programming like “Duck Dynasty.”
“This is a documentary series and that’s been the approach from the beginning,” Sharenow said. “I think there’s been a horrible misperception about what it is and what we set out to do. This is a pure documentary that looks at a previously hidden part of the world.”