BEVERLY HILLS, CA — No new air date has been set for A&E’s docuseries “The Devil Next Door” according to Executive Producer Frances Gasparini. Speculation continues as to whether the series will air at all. Negotiations and discussions continue between A&E Network, Collins Street Productions and the Word of Faith Fellowship (WoFF) Church.
Meanwhile many participants in the documentary have petitioned A&E in a carefully worded letter to air the six-part series. Many expressed concerns that they had trusted in the production and shared intimate parts of their lives. Privately, a few have expressed concern that the church, as it has allegedly in the past, would retaliate against them.
Josh Farmer, attorney for the Word of Faith Fellowship, after verification of payments to participants issued a press release over a week ago called for the cancellation of the docu-series challenging A&E with their “checkbook journalism.” Several participants were paid thousands of dollars. A&E states that these payments were in fact reimbursements of expenses of the individuals. Farmer states that at least one person was offered payment for materials as a way to put money in someone’s pocket for their participation.
WoFF is also campaigning with emails from its parishioners. In a text message the church members are being asked to sent emails to A&E executive Michael Feeney. The message reads:
A&E emails need to be well written brief & discuss that abuse doesn’t happen. Personalize how church, pastors & community have been God’s tool for life change.
A copy of the WoFF press release is provided below as well as a letter to A&E by parishioner Butch Maltby.
PRESS RELEASE FROM WORD OF FAITH FELLOWSHIP
Word of Faith Fellowship PASTORS SAM & JANE WHALEY
207 Old Flynn Rd.
Spindale, NC 28160
A&E has marketed The Devil Next Door as a documentary, calling the production an “original docu-series”3 in a recent announcement. A&E explained that the series was intended to “provide a voice to the former members” and purports to “chronicle their tireless efforts” to get others to leave Word of Faith.4 Now knowing the full story that participants in the A&E documentary were paid, viewers will never know whether what is expressed in the series by paid participants is the truth or merely exaggerated or fabricated tales of opportunity seekers telling filmmakers the sensational tidbits they think an audience wants to hear.
Industry practice for documentary filmmaking eschews payments to participants for good
reason. Participants who are paid tend to tell the filmmaker what they want to hear. Don’t
just take our word for it. Jon Else, director of the documentary program at University of
California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, opines “Paying people to talk to you
poisons what they tell you. Would you trust a New York Times article if you knew the
reporter had paid the subject to talk?”5 Perhaps that’s why A&E’s own internal policies and
practices ban this practice with documentaries?
After initially learning of payments to participants in this A&E production, attorneys for Word of Faith confronted Collins Avenue producer Francis Gasparini with the allegations that he and his crew had paid those depicted in the production. Gasparini denied compensating those who appeared and indicated that any payments made were small and intended to defray the expenses of the participants. We now know that Gasparini’s comments were disingenuous at best. Characterizing the multi-thousand dollar payments to Chad Cooper, for example, as expense reimbursements simply does not square with the reality of what expenses Cooper may have incurred for his participation, described by one of Cooper’s friends as several hours per week of filming for a period of time.
The potential participant who was offered $8,000 affirmed that the offered payment had no relation to their potential expenses, had they chosen to participate. Surely Gasparini and his production company are conscious of the troubling nature of the payments made to their documentary subjects. Perhaps that’s why some of the offered payments were intentionally misdescribed.
In another example, a production member named “Jen” apparently wanted to compensate a former church member who was briefly filmed in the background of a public place with another former Word of Faith member. Jen indicated that while she couldn’t provide direct compensation, the former church member could provide childhood pictures or videos of their time at Word of Faith. In return, Jen would pay $250. Jen made it clear that she had no intention of actually using the media she purportedly wished to purchase but this was merely a “loophole” by which she could put some money in the former member’s hands for being filmed for a few minutes by the documentary crew.
3 10/9/2018 – A&E’s New Series “The Devil Next Door” Provides a Voice to Ex-members of the Controversial Word of Faith Fellowship Church. https://www.aetv.com/news/aes-new-series-the-devil-next-door-provides-a-voice-to-ex-membersof- the-controversial-word-of-faith-fellowship-church
5 8/31/2004 – “Money Changes Everything–or Does It?: Considering Whether Documentaries Should Pay for Play.”
Word of Faith Fellowship PASTORS SAM & JANE WHALEY
207 Old Flynn Rd.
Spindale, NC 28160
Word of Faith calls on A&E to follow industry practices and principles for documentary
journalism and to abide by its own internal policies and practices. The payments made to
participants in The Devil Next Door production were significant and pervasive. A&E has no
choice but to decline to air this series just as they declined to air Escaping the KKK in 2016
for the same reasons. Failing that course of action – the only ethical course of action – A&E
will leave viewers of The Devil Next Door wondering if they are watching a work of fiction or a work of unbiased journalism and whether those depicted in the series are paid actors or the
aggrieved former church members they present themselves to be.
Should A&E fail to accept its ethical obligation to cancel this series, Elizabeth Vargas should
denounce the practices of A&E and the production company in the series and decline to
participate further. Anything short of her total repudiation of this tainted production will only tarnish her well-earned reputation as an award-winning journalist.
Members of the media may make contact per the instructions below regarding sources
referenced herein. Some sources will speak on the record. Others will only speak on
condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by members of the Cooper family, the driving
force behind The Devil Next Door documentary series.
This morning, one of our parishioners spoke with A&E EVP, Corporate Communications,
Michael Feeney about what we have described herein. Feeney dismissed our concerns and
did not address the inconsistencies of this series with A&E’s previously-referenced standards.
Perhaps A&E has debased its standards.
Joshua Farmer, Attorney
Farmer & Morris Law
STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO A&E’s “THE DEVIL NEXT DOOR” SERIES LAUNCHING 11/27
As a recent member of Word of Faith Fellowship I’ve been appalled at the ferocity of unfounded, tenaciously pursued false accusations against the church and its pastors. The clear collusion between a disaffected family of former congregants, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and media outlets wanting a frothy story has been the journalistic equivalent of character assassination and “carpet bombing” of devoted families in our small North Carolina town with the moniker “Small Town Friendly.”
I have never experienced nor observed any abuse of children or adults at the church or Christian school. There is no draconian control exercised by Jane Whaley. There’s never been human trafficking from Brazil and strong corporate prayer is honored by a number of diverse faith traditions around the world. So are lifestyle decisions—which while different than mainstream America—remain ours to guide day-to-day the personal application of eternal truth as expressed in God’s word.
An unsuspecting public is now fed by A&E dramatized interviews solely driven by America’s passion for televised entertainment and the nefarious intents of a family bent on destroying a church and its loving family of members.
The unimpeachable evidence that participants in this “fact finding” series were paid for their participation undermines the credibility of each voice and veracity of outlandish claims they’ve made. Money and “checkbook journalism” tend to muddy the waters and make toxic whatever content emerges in the end.
Yet, I’m confident ultimate “true” truth will prevail. Lies ultimately yield bitter fruit as scripture reveals in an ancient Old Testament book with enduring insights for today.
“And they sow the wind [in evil]
And they reap the whirlwind [in disaster].
Hosea 8:7 (AMP)
In the meantime, we sadly observe yet another example of anything but a “documentary” but instead the dramatic, fictionalized representations from individuals who have made their life purpose a frontal assault on Constitutional freedoms to worship, believe and live in a community of conscience and values driven by an understanding of Biblical truth.
A spiritually discerning, common sense viewer will sense the charade—just as we have already.
Word of Faith Fellowship member
Attorneys for the church and for A&E continue to discuss the content and the methodology by which information was obtained.
Investigation into this matter continues.