Film & TV

Ben Affleck Tried to Suppress Slave-Owning Ancestry

Film & TV

Ben Affleck Tried to Suppress Slave-Owning Ancestry

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The cover up, as they say, is always worse than the crime. And so it seems with the news of Ben Affleck at the center of an embarrassing attempt to suppress his ancestors’ past.

Affleck was featured on the PBS genealogy series Finding Your Roots, but in their investigation, they uncovered that his ancestors had owned slaves at one time. The information has come to light as part of the massive Sony email hacks, uploaded recently to Wikileaks.

Emails between Sony CEO Michael Lynton and PBS’ Henry Louis Gates Jr. show the two struggling with how to handle the request from the actor to censor the story.

“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,” Gates wrote. “We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found. He’s a megastar. What do we do?”

Lynton advised him to edit it out, provided that no one else knew, but Gates pushed back, saying that it “would be a violation of PBS rules, actually, even for Batman” and “would embarrass him and compromise our integrity…Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand.”

Ultimately, the story was not featured on the program, but for unrelated editorial reasons, Gates said in a statement this week:

 

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. Ultimately, I maintain editorial control on all of my projects and, with my producers, decide what will make for the most compelling program.

 

h/t Gawker photo AP/Nathan Denette