Programming President, A&E Networks
“This is not a reality show starring the KKK. This is a documentary series and that’s been the approach from the beginning.”
These were the words of A&E Executive VP and General Manager (now Programming President) Rob Sharenow about his network’s touted Generation KKK show in December 2016. “This is a pure documentary,” he further asserted, “that looks at a previously hidden part of the world.”
That was the first lie.
When A&E announced the so-called docuseries on December 18, 2016, for a January 2017 kickoff, it promoted the show as a controversial look into the lives of several Klan members.
The promo received an immediate negative blow-back. The Twitter universe lit up with people expressing doubt that the network responsible for a reality series like Duck Dynasty could produce a credible documentary about the KKK. One person tweeted, “Since they are doing TV shows about terrorist groups like A&E’s KKK, they might as well do ‘Real Housewives of Al Qaeda.’”
Among the complaints was that of actress-producer Ellen Pompeo, best known for her role on the long-running TV series Grey’s Anatomy, who urged her 1.23 million Twitter followers to boycott A&E. Pompeo charged the cable channel with “giving ignorance a platform.”
Sharenow responded to Pompeo’s message with his false assurance that the series is a “pure documentary.”
But the complaints continued.
HBO star Wendell Pierce went so far as to insist the network provide proof that the subjects in this documentary were not paid.
The network responded by claiming the show is about “extracting families from the KKK and exposing hate,” adding that the Anti-Defamation League—a civil rights organization combating anti-Semitism—supported the program. The criticism yet continued.
In a move akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, A&E announced a title change of the series to Escaping the KKK: A Documentary Series Exposing Hate in America, and proclaimed they had teamed with another organization, Color of Change, dedicated to African-American civil rights.
A damage-control statement from Rob Sharenow stated his network’s “goal is to expose and combat racism and hatred in all its forms,” adding that the new title “better reflects our longstanding intention and the content itself.”
That was the next lie.
Twenty-four hours later, on Christmas Eve day, A&E announced that it cancelled the series.
The reason? The cable network had been exposed by the news that third-party producers paid KKK participants, which countered A&E’s own policy, much less its promise to Color of Change and the Anti-Defamation League that no payments would be made to these hate group members.
Moreover, as was soon revealed that producers fabricated scenes and scripted dialogue for sensationalism—inflaming hate and bigotry with, for example, a fabricated scene of a cross burning and a demand that a participant use the word “n----r.”
If Rob Sharenow’s assertion that A&E’s “goal is to expose and combat racism and hatred in all its forms” were true, of course, he would have tanked the program long before all of this.
He and the network also would have never green-lighted another program devoted to making “entertainment” out of hate and bigotry, this time against a religion: Leah Remini’s Scientology and the Aftermath series—which, per Remini’s own statements, is to accomplish her goal of taking down the religion. Albeit her goal is as delusional as her portrayal of the Church of Scientology, its leader and members, such a series is an outrage. Imagine an A&E “docuseries” exclusively featuring defrocked Catholics, apostate Jews, “post-Mormons” or any other religion “exes.” They wouldn’t dare.
A&E’s justification for giving a platform to bigotry and hatred against a religion? It’s what they let Remini state on air: just say it’s “not a religion.” Only an Hollywood outfit like A&E would allow a sitcom actress to have more authority than national governments, courts, theologians—not to mention Scientologists themselves who practice their religion.
Such a rationalization of course has pockmarked the millennia with pogroms, jihads, wars: the other guy’s religion is “not a religion” in the eyes of the narrow-minded, the intolerant, the haters. Those of another color are “not people” as they’re an inferior, non-human race in the minds of the bigots.
In August 2017, A&E launched an expensive advertising campaign trying to convince viewers that its “reality” programming is “real.” The ads attempt to paint the network’s pseudo-documentary programming as unscripted “journalism.”
At the center of that campaign is Remini’s Aftermath. A&E began to promote the campaign heavily on August 15, the day it launched the second season of its hate-baiting attacks on Scientology.
The campaign is the latest ploy by A&E CEO Nancy Dubuc’s “dream team” of New York media executives Paul Buccieri, president of A&E Studios, and Sharenow, in the face of the growing and irrefutable evidence that much of its reality and “documentary” programming is a lie—a “fake news” tableau based on crass exploitation of public perceptions.