WoFF Questions A&E Series “The Devil Next Door”

SPINDALE — The continuing saga of issues over A&E Network airing its docu-series, The Devil Next Door, continues. A press release from Word of Faith Fellowship (WoFF) was received yesterday outlining a series of questions and challenges the church has for the network. The church attorney, Josh Farmer, has been reaching out to the media in a way the church has not done in recent years through his press releases. (RC Catalyst publishes both sides of the story when it is available.)

Among the church’s questions in the following press release is whether A & E did, in fact, pull the docu-series off of its schedule due to the objections and criticisms made in WoFF’s first press release. The church is also seeking answers as to whether the participants were paid, whether the documentary was made to be news or entertainment, and whether payments affect the participants’ credibility.

A&E has presented varying responses to the news media and never issued an official press release. The pulling of the premiere from the television schedule gave no notice to the ex-members of the church or to the production company. The handling of the conflict seems without any public relations consideration.

The A&E statement given to the Daily Courier to include more footage in the series defies common sense. In one of the early conversations after the church requested the cancellation of the series is that A&E is said to have offered additional footage to include the church’s reaction. However, the church early on in the project refused participation in the project citing “the production crew did not come here seeking Truth. They already had their minds made up before they ever began.”

Since A&E has not answered questions about payments, allegations in the documentary, and has not yet issued a formal press release, the questions of truth and transparency remain.


WORD OF FAITH FELLOWSHIP PRESS RELEASE


Word of Faith Fellowship PASTORS SAM & JANE WHALEY
207 Old Flynn Rd.
Spindale, NC 28160
828-286-3772
Fax 828-286-0080

Spindale, North Carolina — A&E postponed the heavily-promoted premiere of its new series The Devil Next Door which was originally scheduled to air November 27, 2018. The postponement followed a call by The Word of Faith Fellowship, the target of the series, for the network to cancel the series and adhere to its previously-stated internal guidelines which caused it to cancel its documentary, “Escaping the KKK,” in December 2016 after discovery of payments to participants.

Inconsistencies in A&E’s public responses raise several unanswered questions which include:
• Was the series postponement related to church criticism?
• Were participants of the series paid?
• Is the series a credible documentary or merely entertainment?
• Should the credibility of paid church critics be discounted by their acceptance of the payments?

We will be releasing more information as the story continues to unfold.
Joshua Farmer, Attorney
Farmer & Morris Law
(828) 286-3866
jfarmer@farmerlegal.com


Word of Faith Fellowship PASTORS SAM & JANE WHALEY
207 Old Flynn Rd.
Spindale, NC 28160
828-286-3772
Fax 828-286-0080

Church Stands Up to A&E and A&E Blinks – A&E Postpones Premiere of Ethically-
Compromised The Devil Next Door Docu-Drama Focused on The Word of Faith Fellowship –
New Facts Continue to Emerge Deepening A&E’s Quandary

SPINDALE, North Carolina – Within twenty-four hours of initial media coverage of a Word of Faith Fellowship press release raising significant ethical concerns about the production of a purported documentary entitled The Devil Next Door, A&E Television Network decided – on the eve of its heavily-promoted premiere – to postpone the troubled series. Improbably, the entertainment behemoth stumbled, bumbled and fumbled in its public statements about the series as its responses to media inquiries left audiences with more questions than answers.

Amid a sea of absurd statements issued by A&E, perhaps the most uncredible notion is the claim the
network made last Tuesday to The Daily Courier. The newspaper based in Forest City, North Carolina,
quoted A&E Executive Vice-President for Corporate Communications, Michael Feeney, as indicating
that complaints from the church (presumably from the WoFF November 23 press release) had nothing to do with the delay of the series and, instead, the delay was implemented to allow for addition of newly available footage.1

In attempting to explain its delay decision, A&E expects viewers to suspend disbelief, sacrifice logic and accept A&E’s notion that just one day prior to the aggressively-marketed premiere, a sudden decision was made to add additional footage – a decision that just happened to occur after Word of Faith called on the network not to air the program because of the network’s failure to adhere to its own ethics policies on payments to participants.

Our prior revelation of significant payments to participants in the A&E show found the network caught
with its hand in the proverbial cookie jar. While A&E produced and promoted the series under the
banner A&E Investigates™ (positioned as a network vehicle providing “journalistic…nonfiction”
documentary filmmaking2), the network attempts to explain its lack of adherence to ethical
documentary journalism by telling a reporter for ABC-affiliate WLOS that it is simply an
“entertainment company [and] not a news provider” and, as such, participants are paid for certain items
like missed work, childcare and travel.3 While it is shocking that a sophisticated corporate
communications department would allow such an obvious contradiction to remain unresolved, the
network’s statements lay bare that A&E wants to arrogate to itself the legitimacy and marketplace


1 Wicker, M. (2018, November 28). A&E: WOFF didn’t cause postponement. The Daily Courier, pp. A1, A6.
2 “A+E Networks Inks Overall Production and First-Look Development Deal With Award-Winning Journalist Elizabeth Vargas.” (2018, April 19). Retrieved from http://www.aetv.com/news/ae-networks-inks-overall-production-and-first-lookdevelopment-deal-with-award-winning-journalist-elizabeth-vargas
3 Emert, J. (2018, November 26). Controversial WNC church asks network not to run docu-series. Retrieved from
https://wlos.com/news/local/controversial-wnc-church-asks-network-not-to-run-docu-series


credibility due an investigative journalism outfit that produces groundbreaking documentaries without
playing by those rules. Instead, it wants to play by the fast-and-loose principles (or lack thereof) of an
“entertainment” company. Hiring an independent production company like Collins Avenue that
produces low-brow reality television such as Bridezillas and Dance Moms is simply further evidence of
the fact that – despite its announcements to the contrary – A&E had no intention to produce quality
documentary journalism in conjunction with Collins Avenue on this project.

A&E also continues to cling to an ever-thinning reed in its repeated assertions that payments made to
participants were “minimal.”4 Only in Hollywood or New York City are payments of thousands or ten
of thousands of dollars considered “minimal.” However, in western North Carolina and in Rutherford
County such payments are more than sufficient to motivate payees into saying what they think the
payor wants to hear. The church now has solid information coming out of the camp of church critics
that multiple participants were paid amounts in excess of $25,000.

In a recorded telephone conversation provided to church attorneys, John Huddle (a key participant in the A&E series) states:

“I hired an attorney out of Charlotte to negotiate the contract…I didn’t know anything about the entertainment industry…and that was on the recommendation of Ben Cooper to hire an attorney and he’s an attorney.”

Clearly, Cooper and Huddle understood they were negotiating compensation for appearing in an entertainment series. Or perhaps Huddle just needed help in negotiating his “minimal” expense reimbursements.

Specifically, regarding payments to participants, the church has been provided a recently-recorded
conversation with show producer Francis Gasparini in which Gasparini continues to maintain that
participants were merely paid for their expenses. However, in a moment of reflection, Gasparini
tellingly admits that revelations that participants were compensated “appear to be correct.” Resuming
his original defensive narrative, Gasparini goes on to say that “As far as I know, nobody said ‘Get on
the show and we’re going to give you X thousand dollars.’”

Yet, that is exactly what happened, as explained in the first press release in which a source revealed to us that they were offered $8,000 to appear in the series without any discussion of what expenses they might incur if they appeared.

Gasparini is apparently the face of this A&E production, given the total lack of visibility of previously announced collaborator Elizabeth Vargas. Gasparini’s credibility is irretrievably damaged from this contradiction. Gasparini’s assertion is not true, and the contrast in statements between transcripts of the conversations with Gasparini and the source approached to appear in the series is very revealing.

The church has also learned that the shelved A&E series contains highly defamatory content on a
number of subjects and makes insinuations about church leaders that are simply not true but only
designed to trigger a visceral response in the audience. One only has to look no further than the name
The Devil Next Door to reach the obvious conclusion that this series is designed to incite hatred against


4 Wicker, op. cite., p. A1.


a conservative, Christian church. Legal efforts addressing the defamation are commencing and A&E
will be receiving legal demands shortly.

Word of Faith previously called on A&E to comply with its internal standards as described in the
network’s December 24, 2016 press release addressing its cancellation of a documentary due to
payments made to participants.5 A&E maintains that its policy as applied in that instance is being
taken out of context and only limits the network from making payments to members of hate groups.
However, that is clearly not what their previous press release said. The public is invited to review
A&E’s December 2016 statement on the subject and reach their own conclusions.

Taking A&E at its word that its policies at least prohibit payments to members of hate groups –
assuming that policy has not changed – it is clear that the network has problems with The Devil Next
Door production even under that creative reading of its own standards. Participants in the A&E series
have a history of making outrageous and hateful statements against Word of Faith and its leaders in
their attempts to denigrate their constitutionally-protected religious beliefs and practices. In particular,
John Huddle has repeatedly made defamatory comparisons of the church and its leaders to a convicted
child molester (Warren Jeffs and his church, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day
Saints), a murderer (Jim Jones, leader of the People’s Temple) and a genocidal despot (Adolph Hitler),
among others. These comparisons and criticism are designed to enrage the listener or reader and have,
in many cases, incited hatred against the Word of Faith in its community. As such, at least some of the
A&E participants, including John Huddle, are purveyors of hatred against the Word of Faith and our
religious beliefs and should be barred from receiving compensation by A&E’s stated internal strictures
on payments.

A&E has been reckless in attempting to give a voice to church critics who spew hate. Unsurprisingly, those sown seeds have resulted in a bumper crop of hateful and violent references against the church and its leaders online. Recent online comments spurred by The Devil Next Door series include wishes and threats that our church or our pastor Jane Whaley be “burned,” “destroyed” or “str[uck]…dead.”

The frequency, intensity and level of aggression of hateful comments directed at the church has
increased of late during the heavy promotion of The Devil Next Door series. The church has found it
necessary and prudent to report some of these threats to law enforcement, as we have also found
necessary in the past. This is the fruit of A&E’s reckless and misguided efforts.

Finally, the church has uncovered evidence of ethically-compromised reporting at the Associated Press
and apparent collusion between the Associated Press and A&E at senior levels. The tail is now
wagging the dog as efforts to maximize entertainment value trump long-standing journalism maxims.

Multiple sources now willing to be heard publicly are prepared to reveal the lengths that the Associated
5 “Statement from A&E Network on ‘Escaping the KKK.’” (2016, December 24).

Retrieved from
https://www.aetv.com/news/statement-from-ae-network-on-escaping-the-kkk


Press has gone – in violation of its own standards – to assist an entertainment company in the
promotion of a reality series/hit job.

This series is a vivid example of the anti-religious bent of the entertainment industry. This is another
incremental step in the war of the secular media against sincerely-held religious beliefs and Christianity
in particular. Other religious groups should take note: you could be next.

Again, the Word of Faith Fellowship calls on A&E to follow the only ethical course and permanently
cancel The Devil Next Door series that is the fruit of its irresponsible conduct.

We will be releasing more information as the story continues to unfold.
Joshua Farmer, Attorney
Farmer & Morris Law
(828) 286-3866
jfarmer@farmerlegal.com