Email: Affleck Told PBS to Hide Slave-Owning Relative
And the pressure appeared to work on 'Finding Your Roots'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2015 12:34 PM CDT
Ben Affleck appears on Capitol Hill last month.   (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
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(Newser) – An email exchange in the newly published database of hacked Sony documents looks to be embarrassing for Ben Affleck and PBS. Affleck demanded that the show Finding Your Roots withhold the nugget that he had a slave-owning ancestor, reports the Boston Globe. The pressure appeared to be successful, because when the Affleck episode aired, it made no mention of the relative. The revelation is courtesy of an email written by host Henry Louis Gates Jr. to Sony chief Michael Lynton seeking advice on how to handle the situation, reports PageSix. Lynton's advice: “I would take it out if no one knows, but if it gets out that you are editing the material based on this kind of sensitivity then it gets tricky.”

Gates responds with his concern that "once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand.” With the emails now public, he released a statement:

  • "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 backed him up, praising Gates' integrity and saying the quality of the stories on his show "speak for themselves."