PBS documentary Finding Your Roots, already under internal review over claims it censored information about Ben Affleck’s slave-owning ancestors out of a recent episode, has again come under fire for inaccuracies after Affleck’s mother denied she was ever involved in the 1964 Freedom Summer.
In Affleck’s segment on the ancestry-themed documentary program, host Henry Louis Gates Jr. tells the actor that his mother, Chris Boldt, was an activist involved in Freedom Summer, the historic voter-registration drive among Mississippi’s African-American community in 1964.
Promotional materials for Affleck’s episode on the PBS website included the line: “Ben Affleck’s mother was a Freedom Rider in 1964.”
“A lynch mob made up of members of the Klan and the local sheriff’s department pulled over three of Ben’s mom’s fellow activists,” Gates tells Affleck on the program. “This is not some abstract threat. The Klan actually murdered these three Freedom Riders. And your mother was there at that time.”
Chris Affleck, now 72, told the Daily Mail this week that her “heart was with” the Freedom Riders, but that she was never a member of the group. According to the outlet, Mrs. Affleck was not even in the South in 1964, but one year later instead.
“I supported what they did,” she told the Mail. “People have incorrectly said I was a member, which embarrasses me because I wasn’t as good as they were.”
PBS announced this week that it would conduct an “internal review” to ensure the network did not violate its editorial guidelines. In a statement to Breitbart News on Friday, PBS said the network is “still conducting our internal review. We will share findings once it is concluded.”
PBS, Gates, and Affleck came under fire last week after a leaked email exchange between Gates and Sony CEO Michael Lynton revealed that Affleck had asked Gates to censor information about a slave-owning ancestor out of the program.
Affleck apologized this week on social media for requesting the edit, saying he was “embarrassed” and that he regretted his “initial thoughts that the issue of slavery not be included in the story.”
Affleck’s mother told the Mail that her son’s apology made her “proud.”
“I wasn’t surprised to find that my family had used black people as slaves,” Mrs. Affleck told the outlet. “It makes sense. It was all on my side of the family because my parents were from Georgia and Mississippi and many rich white people from southern states would use people in this way.”
“I know in my heart that it was wrong, but I had no exact knowledge until now,” she added. “But I am not surprised or shocked, although it doesn’t make you feel good at all.”
In a statement issued shortly after the exchange became public, Gates still apparently believed that Affleck’s mother was a Freedom Rider.
“Ultimately, I maintain editorial control on all of my projects and, with my producers, decide what will make for the most compelling program,” Gates said. “In the case of Mr. Affleck – 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.”
In the original transcript of Affleck’s segment on the program, obtained by Gawker, Gates tells Affleck it’s “cool” that the actor’s mother “went back fighting for the rights of black people in Mississippi, 100 years later. That’s amazing.”
On Wednesday, Affleck revealed the name of his slave-owning great-grandfather on Twitter: Benjamin Cole, who reportedly owned 25 slaves as the wealthy sheriff of Savannah, Georgia.