DECEMBER 30, 2016 | 04:01PM PT
A&E to conduct investigation to probe what happened during production
The subjects of a TV documentary series about the Ku Klux Klan abruptly canceled last week by A&E allege to Variety that significant portions of what was filmed were fabricated by the producers. …
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 …
“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.” …
The purported quality of the program, originally known as “Generation KKK,” helped draw the support of organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and Color of Change, which A&E publicized. …
The cancellation occurred less than 24 hours after this reporter contacted several producers at TIJAT with the allegations contained in this story. Those same producers, according to multiple KKK members who participated in the documentary, subsequently warned them not to speak to this reporter if contacted.
But sources close to the production also cast doubt on the testimony of KKK leaders, describing them as inveterate liars motivated by an agenda to scuttle a series that could make them look bad if it ever aired and prone to confusing being manipulated with aggressive questioning from producers. …
TIJAT producers went so far as to orchestrate more than one cross-burning ceremony in Pulaski, though it is presented in the documentary as if the KKK is actually hosting the event. “We’ve been allowed special access to film this secret induction,” reads a title card that precedes one of the cross-burning scenes.
“It was the producers who told me they wanted a cross-lighting,” recounted Nichols. “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.”
Nichols’ storyline in the documentary series involves his efforts to recruit a young man, Cody Hutt, into the KKK. But their dynamic was also less than truthful: Hutt made it clear to the producers he was never seriously considering joining the KKK, but he was willing to take $200 per day from them to act the part. “From the first day, I sat them (down) and told them I had no interest in joining the Klan,” said Hutt.
As TIJAT’s cameras capture, the tension between Nichols and Hutt reaches the boiling point when Hutt brings an anti-hate activist, Bryon Widner, to Nichols’ home to help convince Nichols to leave Hutt alone. When Nichols learns who Widner is, he angrily demands he leaves the house, even threatening to kill Widner.
But Nichols and Hutt say the scene was a fabrication. “That was 100% the TV guys’ idea and staged,” said Nichols.
… Hutt, a 22-year-old high-school dropout who lives with his mother, readily admits that getting paid by producers was his motivation for helping distort the truth.
“Hey, I loved the money. Don’t get me wrong; I wanted them to come back,” he confessed.
It’s almost as if there is more demand for than supply of the KKK, so the price has gone up.