**UPDATE** PBS responded to Breitbart News with a comment:
PBS and WNET are conducting an internal review led by our respective programming teams of the circumstances around FINDING YOUR ROOTS episode “Roots of Freedom.”
This matter came to PBS’ attention on Friday morning, April 17th. Professor Gates and his producers immediately responded to our initial questions.
In order to gather the facts to determine whether or not all of PBS’ editorial standards were observed, on Saturday, April 18th, we began an internal review. We have been moving forward deliberately yet swiftly to conduct this review.
The integrity and reputation of PBS could be damaged by the revelation that the network censored information about Ben Affleck’s slave-owning great-grandfather out of the actor’s segment on the television show Finding Your Roots, several media professors said Monday.
In an email exchange leaked by WikiLeaks, Finding Your Roots producer and host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. asked Sony CEO Michael Lynton for advice about a “megastar” who wanted to “edit out something about one of his ancestors – the fact that he owned slaves.”
Lynton advised Gates to proceed with caution, and that if anyone knew about the request then the network could not honor it. Gates appeared to understand the gravity of the censorship request, writing, “To do this would be a violation of PBS rules, actually, even for Batman,” and seemed to settle on a decision when he concluded the email exchange with: “Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand.”
But the network never included the information in Affleck’s segment, which aired in September. A number of media professors said that could raise serious questions about the editorial integrity of PBS going forward.
“It’s outrageous that PBS censored such vital information from its program and a reminder that public broadcasting, no less than its commercial counterparts, is too often deferential to those with money and power,” University of Maryland journalism professor Mark Feldstein told TheWrap on Monday.
“If we’re taking this series [Finding Your Roots] seriously as revealing all these different narratives about people’s backgrounds, and choosing to go to one story as opposed to another… I think that’s got some problems,” Syracuse University director of media studies Robert Thompson added to the outlet.
In a statement posted to the PBS website shortly after the leaked emails were revealed, Gates wrote that the decision to withhold the information about Affleck’s ancestor was purely editorial.
“Ultimately, I maintain control on all of my projects and, with my producers, decide what will make for the most compelling program,” Gates wrote. “In the case of Mr. Affleck – we focused on what we felt were the most interesting aspects of his ancestry.”
In PBS’s own statement, the network backed its host, writing, “It is clear from the exchange how seriously Professor Gates takes editorial integrity.”
PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler added his own statement, writing that his “first impression” of Gates’ and PBS’s statements is that they are “not credible.”
“Assuming the emails are accurate, this censorship should have been stopped cold and mistakes should have been admitted publicly, including today in response to the Mail story,” Getler said. “How much PBS knew, as opposed to the producers of the program, and when they knew it, that proverbial cover-up question, I don’t know and I have asked questions about that.”
Feldstein told TheWrap that Gates’ claim that the show’s producers found Affleck’s other ancestors more interesting “doesn’t pass the laugh test.”
“We can be thankful to WikiLeaks for exposing the kind of television self-censorship that usually gets swept under the rug,” Feldstein added.
A representative for Affleck did not return Breitbart News’ request for comment.