Ben Affleck Expresses Regret For Lobbying To Omit Slave-Owning Relative From ‘Finding Your Roots’ Program
Ben Affleck has addressed the Sony hack emails that revealed that he had requested his slave-owner relative be left out of his episode of PBS docuseries Finding Your Roots.
Ben Affleck On ‘Finding Your Roots’
“After an exhaustive search of my ancestry for Finding Your Roots, it was discovered that one of my distant relatives was an owner of slaves,” Affleck wrote on Facebook. “I didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves. I was embarrassed. The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth.”
Affleck went on to admit that he decided to lobby Finding Your Roots executive producer, Henry “Skip” Louis Gates Jr., to keep the segment about the slave-owning relative out of the episode.
“Skip decided what went into the show. 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,” Affleck wrote. “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.”
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“It’s important to remember that this isn’t a news program. Finding Your Roots is a show where you voluntarily provide a great deal of information about your family, making you quite vulnerable,” Affleck added. “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.
In conclusion, Affleck wrote, “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 the Sony emails that were leaked earlier this week, Gates had emailed Sony CEO Michael Lynton about Affleck’s request. “Here’s my dilemma: 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. “Now, four or five of our guests this season descend from slave owners, including Ken Burns. We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found. He’s a megastar. What do we do?”
“I would take it out if no one knows,” Lynton responded. “But if it gets out that you are editing the material based on this kind of sensitivity then it gets tricky.”
PBS and WNET are launching an internal review into the matter.
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