A&E: Obstructing Justice?

Live PD, the police “reality” show, went dark on A&E Networks in June 2020 following disclosures that the reality-TV series had destroyed film that showed the death of Javier Ambler at the hands of police in Austin, Texas, on March 28, 2019.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that investigators had sought the film as part of their inquiry into Mr. Ambler’s death after he was tased four times by police as they ignored his pleas for help, with Live PD cameras rolling. Live PD producer and host Dan Abrams, in a gratuitous television appearance, was disingenuous with his explanations for the show’s termination—continuing to cling to the validity of the racist programming and its depictions of minorities even as he sought to minimize the network’s irresponsibility by destroying what amounts to evidence of potential criminal acts.

You can’t mince words here without making mincemeat of the truth. What Abrams and executives at A&E Networks have done is attempt to shield themselves from responsibility by hiding behind protections intended for a free press.

Reality TV is not journalism, and it should not be protected from a criminal investigation into whether show producers and executives, including Abrams—who has claimed credentials as a journalist with ABC Television and other media—should face investigation for criminal obstruction of justice. Exactly what happened to that revealing footage? What A&E executives were consulted on the decision to destroy the film? And how often have similar decisions been made at A&E? A&E has a sorry relationship with truth, accuracy and responsibility.

Abrams’ June 19 interview on the issue by Good Morning America was conducted by his longtime friends and colleagues at ABC where he has hosted legal affairs programming. In that cozy interview, there were no challenges to his defense of Live PD for filming police action against racial and economic minorities. There were no hard questions asked. How could there be? ABC’s Good Morning America is, like A&E Networks, owned by the Walt Disney Company.

Disney’s see-no-evil approach to A&E programming allowed Elaine Frontain Bryant, executive vice president and head of programming at A&E, and her bosses Paul Buccieri and Rob Sharenow, to preside over a list of programs with unconscionable disregard for the truth. That lineup has come under fire for distorting truth and perceptions by lying to the audiences that A&E cultivates—even as Frontain Bryant claims truth as a cachet.

Bryant shepherded such highly corrupt programming as Generation KKK, a series the network was forced to drop, before it aired, in response to Hollywood pressure. And the network ran for cover when an investigative reporter revealed that the production company scripted the program, handed out secret cash payments to participants to deliver lines containing racial hate speech, and promoted phony reenactments of cross-burnings, historically used to terrorize African Americans, Catholics, Jews and others targeted for discrimination and violence.

Bryant was also responsible for Leah Remini’s hate-inciting attacks on the Scientology religion, on Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious groups, which resulted in violence against those churches and their members.

And she promoted The Devil Next Door that was to be a “tell-all” series by ex-members of the Word of Faith Fellowship Church. Like the KKK series, The Devil Next Door was pulled before it aired when a member released canceled checks proving secret payments by the producers to ex-members to make provocative and unsubstantiated accusations against the church.

Much of A&E’s programming uses lies and distortions to try to fool their viewers into believing that their “reality” programming is real—not the scripted, shaped and manipulated deception it actually is. Given free rein by Disney and Hearst, the network has let profits steamroll any inclination to search for the truth, because the truth proves unprofitable for A&E. 

Photo credits: Courtesy of ABC

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