Ben Affleck Asked PBS To Censor A Disturbing Detail About His Family History — REPORT (UPDATE)
Ben Affleck allegedly didn't want you to know an unsettling detail about his ancestry. Last October, Affleck appeared on Finding Your Roots , a PBS series dedicated to "uncovering the ancestry of the show's celebrity guests," Huffington Post reports. The "Roots of Freedom" episode "discusses [Affleck's] Freedom Rider mother, a Revolutionary War ancestor and his third great-grandfather." Reportedly, the episode also uncovered a detail about Affleck's slave owning ancestor, and according to a hacked Sony email posted by WikiLeaks last Thursday, he allegedly wanted to keep that part private.
(UPDATE #1: Deadline reports that PBS is launching an investigation into the alleged censorship involved in Finding Your Roots. The network released the following statement on Tuesday: “PBS and WNET are conducting an internal review led by our respective programming teams of the circumstances around the Finding Your Roots episode ‘Roots of Freedom.‘”)
(UPDATE #2: In response to the reports, Ben Affleck has released a statement on his Facebook page:
After an exhaustive search of my ancestry for “Finding Your Roots,” it was discovered that one of my distant relatives was an owner of slaves. I didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves. I was embarrassed. The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth.
Skip decided what went into the show. I lobbied him the same way I lobby directors about what takes of mine I think they should use. This is the collaborative creative process. Skip agreed with me on the slave owner but made other choices I disagreed with. In the end, it's his show and I knew that going in. I'm proud to be his friend and proud to have participated. [...] It's important to remember that this isn't a news program. Finding Your Roots is a show where you voluntarily provide a great deal of information about your family, making you quite vulnerable.
Additionally, Affleck apologized for the omission in the episode, writing:
I regret my initial thoughts that the issue of slavery not be included in the story. We deserve neither credit nor blame for our ancestors and the degree of interest in this story suggests that we are, as a nation, still grappling with the terrible legacy of slavery. It is an examination well worth continuing. I am glad that my story, however indirectly, will contribute to that discussion. While I don't like that the guy is an ancestor, I am happy that aspect of our country's history is being talked about.
Read the full statement over at Affleck's Facebook page.)
According to the NY Daily News, the email conversation between Finding Your Roots host Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton reportedly dates back to July 2014, when Gates wrote, "For the first time, one of our guests has asked us to edit out something about one of his ancestors -- the fact that he owned slaves." Lynton supposedly replied, "I would take it out if no one knows, but if it gets out that you are editing the material based on this kind of sensitivity then it gets tricky. Again, all things being equal I would definitely take it out."
Later, Gates allegedly came through with the ultimate burn when he said, "Removing the information would be 'a violation of PBS rules, actually, even for Batman.'"
Affleck's people reportedly did not immediately respond to Huffington Post's request for comment, but a rep from Sony responded with this statement: “We vehemently disagree with WikiLeaks’ assertion that this material belongs in the public domain and will continue to fight for the safety, security, and privacy of our company and its more than 6,000 employees."