Ben Affleck: ‘I Regret’ Asking PBS to Edit Slave-Owning Ancestor Out of Doc

Ben Affleck Reuters

Ben Affleck took to Facebook on Tuesday to address the controversy surrounding censorship of his segment on the PBS television show Finding Your Roots.

In an email exchange leaked last week, Finding Your Roots producer and host Henry Louis Gates Jr. revealed to Sony CEO Michael Lynton that Affleck had requested information about a slave-owning great-grandfather be edited out of his segment on the documentary program.

PBS ultimately complied with Affleck’s request, as no mention of the ancestor is made on the actor’s segment, which aired in September.

“I didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves,” Affleck wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday. “I was embarrassed. The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth.”

“Skip [Gates] decided what went into the show,” Affleck continued. “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.”

Affleck’s statement supports Gates’s own statement, issued shortly after the leak of the email exchange, in which Gates said that he and his producers “decide what will make for the most compelling program.”

“In the case of Mr. Affleck,” Gates said, “we focused on what we felt were the most interesting aspects of his ancestry.”

In his post, Affleck wrote that participating in documentary programs like Finding Your Roots makes one feel “quite vulnerable.”

“The assumption is that they will never be dishonest but they will respect your willingness to participate and not look to include things you think would embarrass your family,” Affleck explained.

Affleck concluded his post:

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.

In a statement to Breitbart News on Tuesday, PBS said it had begun an “internal review” of the production of Affleck’s episode to determine if the network’s “editorial standards were observed.”


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