MSN.com: Hacked Sony emails reveal that actor-director Ben Affleck requested that his slave owner ancestor be removed from his family tree on PBS program Finding Your Roots.
In a series of WikiLeaks emails, the genealogy program’s host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. emailed Sony chief Michael Lynton asking “advice” on the actor’s request, according to New York Daily News.
“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 emailed Lynton in the July 22, 2014 email chain.
Gates defended the decision to edit out Affleck’s ancestor in a statement posted Friday on the PBS website.
The mission of “Finding Your Roots” is to find and share interesting stories from our celebrity guests ancestries and use those stories to unlock new ways to learn about our past. 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. 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.
PBS also issued a statement supporting Gates’ decision:
It is clear from the exchange how seriously Professor Gates takes editorial integrity. He has told us that after reviewing approximately ten hours of footage for the episode, he and his producers made an independent editorial judgment to choose the most compelling narrative. The range and depth of the stories on Finding Your Roots speak for themselves.
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