Recently, we’ve been hearing a lot about a now-cancelled documentary about the Ku Klux Klan for A&E, including the outrage over the fact that producers paid the hate group for access. However, according to an exclusive by Variety, that’s not all they paid for.
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 “n*****” 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.”
Now, there are two sides to this story. The first is A&E, which apparently outsourced this particular project to a company out of California. The second side is the KKK, which is awful in every sense of the word, and this post is by no means a defense of what they do. On the contrary, they are legitimately awful and should frankly not be given airtime at all.
The truth to this story probably lies somewhere between both. The KKK the producers wanted to show was the old school KKK. The stuff you really don’t see a whole lot of anymore (the crosses, the robes, etc.), and the KKK probably saw an opportunity to make themselves look like victims of a media agenda to help cover up for the fact that they are really, really terrible people.
I don’t know what the truth is, nor do I care. What I do think, and I believe this can get bipartisan approval, is that the KKK shouldn’t be getting airtime at all. Ever.