Ben Affleck is facing heavy criticism after it was revealed that he requested PBS to hide the fact that his ancestors owned slaves as it was discovered during his episode of the show “Finding Your Roots.”
The revelation comes as part of the Sony hack, in which emails between Sony chief Michael Lynton and Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, host of “Finding Your Roots”, discussed Ben Affleck’s request to omit the slave-owning side of his ancestry.
via NBC News:
“Here’s my dilemma: confidentially, 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. Now, four or five of our guests this season descend from slave owners, including Ken Burns. We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found. He’s a megastar. What do we do?” Gates wrote on July 22, 2014.
Lynton replies that it all depends on who knows that the information was in the documentary already.
“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,” Lynton wrote that same day.
After going back and forth, the two seem to decide censoring the information is a bad idea, with Gates writing later on July 22 that if the public learned of it, “It would embarrass him and compromise our integrity. I think he is getting very bad advice” and adding: “Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand.”
Affleck is never mentioned in the exchange of emails between Gates and Lynton; instead he’s referred to as a “megastar” and “Batman.” He was filming “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” in Detroit at the time.
In a statement responding to the hacked emails on Friday, Gates defended the decision to edit out part of Affleck’s ancestry.
“We focused on what we felt were the most interesting aspects of his ancestry — including a Revolutionary War ancestor, a 3rd great-grandfather who was an occult enthusiast, and his mother who marched for Civil Rights during the Freedom Summer of 1964.”
“We are very grateful to all of our guests for allowing us into their personal lives and have told hundreds of stories in this series including many about slave ancestors-never shying away from chapters of a family’s past that might be unpleasant.”
PBS also released a statement saying Gates made an “independent editorial judgment” when choosing what would go into the episode.
We can’t blame Ben for what his ancestors did, but he gets a major side-eye from us for trying to hide it from the public.