‘Escaping the KKK’ Producers Say Participants Were ‘Coerced’ Into Bashing A&E Series (Exclusive)

“We take these allegations very seriously and in partnership with A&E we will be looking into them fully,” says production company This Is Just a Test

Last Updated: December 30, 2016 @ 5:49 PM

The producers of A&E’s contentious docuseries “Escaping the KKK” say they are “looking into” allegations that the subjects of the series were paid to fake scenes for the cameras.

This Is Just a Test, the company which produced the series for A&E, said in a statement to TheWrap on Friday that it will investigate the claims made by some members of the hate group, who say they were paid to fabricate storylines and distort their lives for the cameras.

“We take these allegations very seriously and in partnership with A&E we will be looking into them fully,” the statement said, before saying that it’s possible some participants have been “coerced” into bashing the show.

“We fully expected opposition from hate organizations who wish to disparage this series,” the statement continued. “We have been told that participants in the series have received threats and coerced into speaking out against the authenticity of the show.”

The statement also addressed A&E’s decision to cancel the series before air — a decision the network attributed to cash payments made by the “third-party producers” in order to “facilitate access,” a violation of the network’s documentary practices and policies.

“We recognize how controversial the subject matter is, and we understand the impulse to reject it at first glance,” TIJAT’s statement said. “Every crew member who worked on this can attest to how emotionally and psychologically challenging it was. We had many many long conversations about how to tackle this subject matter, and we are proud of the program we made. We feel the backlash over the announcement of this series has led to a shoot the messenger mentality.”

A&E did not immediately return TheWrap’s request for comment.

“We are deeply saddened that these accusations will overshadow the important achievements of this series now, but again we take these accusations very seriously and in partnership with A&E will investigate them fully,” the statement concluded.

Read the full statement from This Is Just a Test below:

We take these allegations very seriously and in partnership with A&E we will be looking into them fully.

We set out to make sense of the recent rise in hate group membership in America. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that the number of Ku Klux Klan chapters grew from 72 in 2014 to 190 last year. The intent of this series was to put a human face on hate, reveal how destructive it is for those who profess it, and most importantly to document the incredibly powerful transformations people undergo once they choose to abandon hate. During the production, we saw prominent members of the KKK quit the Klan, children have been saved from a lifetime of hate, families who heard about the production have already reached out for help, and we expected many more would have if they had the opportunity to see this show. We took a hard stance against hate and reached out to those being consumed by it. We fully expected opposition from hate organizations who wish to disparage this series. We have been told that participants in the series have received threats and coerced into speaking out against the authenticity of the show. Throughout filming this the producers had to constantly question every piece of information we were told and vet it. We will be doing that now with new information as well.

We recognize how controversial the subject matter is, and we understand the impulse to reject it at first glance. Every crew member who worked on this can attest to how emotionally and psychologically challenging it was. We had many many long conversations about how to tackle this subject matter, and we are proud of the program we made. We feel the backlash over the announcement of this series has led to a shoot the messenger mentality. We are deeply saddened that these accusations will overshadow the important achievements of this series now, but again we take these accusations very seriously and in partnership with A&E will investigate them fully.

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