National Geographic Exec Defends American Colony

By AP Wire

David Lyle, National Geographic Channel's CEO, vigorously defended the channel and the series.

"This is a declaration of war from the Hutterite elders against the National Geographic Society, calling into account our fairness," Lyle said. "We absolutely are fairly representing the King community."

The bishops' criticisms reflect "the very tensions that are at the core of this story," he said, which he described as the conflict between Hutterite traditions and rules, and some colony members' efforts to remain devout while adapting to 21st-century society.

The Hutterites are Protestants similar to the Amish and Mennonites who live a life centered on their religion, but unlike the others, Hutterites live in German-speaking communes scattered across northern U.S. states and Canada.

The King Ranch Colony had declined comment before the series began airing and had no comment Thursday, according to Kristin Cole, a spokeswoman for the bishops.

"American Colony" producer Jeff Collins, who did not respond to a request for comment, said previously that the series would avoid such reality TV ploys as "feeding" lines to people to heighten the drama. He described the production as an ongoing "negotiation," with colony members querying the crew on how and what they were taping.

"American Colony" depicts members of the 59-member King Ranch commune, located more than 100 miles from Billings, Mont., as drinking alcoholic beverages and cursing. Some parents are shown questioning their faith's tenets, while a restless teenager flouts rules on dress and dating.

Hutterites are "a culture that 75 percent of Americans never have heard about. That should have been interesting enough," said Mary-Ann Kirkby, a member of the faith who lives in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, and wrote the 2010 memoir, "I Am Hutterite."

 "To then make them act completely out of character for your own ends shows a great lack of judgment and decency," said Kirkby, who said she's had detailed discussions with the bishops about the show and their concerns.

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