COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — The History Channel’s documentary on the Aryan Nations didn’t have enough recent history for northern Idaho residents who were reluctant neighbors of the neo-Nazi group.
The new version, which first aired last Tuesday, is OK, but gives short shrift to the demise of Aryan Nations in northern Idaho, said Tony Stewart, a civil rights activist who provided information to The History Channel.
“It helped but it wasn’t as complete as it could have been,” said Stewart, a North Idaho College professor and a co-founder of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations. “Unless you were following closely, it might not be completely clear that the Aryans are gone.”
“We appreciate the fact they did update it, but we were hoping the casual viewer would get a clearer message,” Stewart said.
Only a few moments at the end of the two-hour program were devoted to the 2000 trial that bankrupted the Aryan Nations, the subsequent sale and destruction of its compound, and the 2004 death of founder Richard Butler, Stewart said.
The bulk of the program was the history of the neo-Nazi movement in the United States, from its origins in the 1930s.
Lynn Gardner, a spokeswoman for The History Channel, said the 5-year-old documentary needed to be updated to add the deaths of Butler last year and William Pierce of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, who died in 2002. There are no plans to add additional information, she said.
“It won’t run in prime time because it is old,” she said from New York City, but the program will likely air again in other hours.
About two weeks ago, producers for The History Channel asked Stewart to provide information and pictures of the destruction of Aryan Nations.
The new version of the documentary noted the trial and Butler’s death and showed a bulldozer tearing into a building with a swastika on the roof, Stewart said.
It also contained a quote from Butler talking about how his group would endure in northern Idaho, which could give viewers the impression it still exists, Stewart said.
The Aryan Nations maintains a Web site from Alabama, but its members are locked in a feud over who controls the group now.
Stewart said the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations will produce its own documentary to mark the 25th anniversary of its founding, and will spend more time on the demise of Aryan Nations in northern Idaho. It will be offered to PBS stations.
Butler died in his sleep last September at the age of 86. For three decades his neo-Nazi group was among the dominant public images of northern Idaho. In 2000, a Coeur d’Alene jury ruled against Butler in a $6.3 million lawsuit filed by two people who had been attacked by his security guards. The verdict pushed Butler into bankruptcy, forcing him to relinquish his land.
The land was sold to multimillionaire human-rights activist Greg Carr, who had the buildings burned and the grounds converted into a peace park.
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