Leaked PBS emails have foiled outspoken liberal actor Ben Affleck’s attempts to cover up his slave owner ancestry.
When he appeared on an episode of the PBS series, “Finding Your Roots,” Affleck learned that a member of his bloodline owned slaves, and he asked to have that part of the scene scrubbed.
Hacked emails published by WikiLeaks showed the program’s host, Henry Louis Gates Jr., asked Sony executive Michael Lynton on July 22, 2014, what to do about the situation, the New York Daily News reported.
“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.
Gates was concerned that editing out the information could tarnish the program’s reputation and said it would violate PBS rules, “even for Batman.”
“Four or five of our guests this season descend from slave owners, including [renowned documentary producer] Ken Burns,” Gates said, adding that Affleck’s ancestor “wasn’t even a bad guy.”
“Anderson Cooper’s ancestor was a real s.o.b.; one of his slaves actually murdered him,” he added. “Of course, the slave was promptly hanged. And Anderson didn’t miss a beat about that.”
Gates said he was concerned Affleck’s superstar status would cause a problem, according to the Daily News.
“We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found,” Gates said. “He’s a megastar. What do we do?”
Lynton advised Gates to cave to the star’s wishes.
“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,” Lynton said. “Again, all things being equal I would definitely take it out.”
Any mention of Affleck’s slave-owning relative was edited out, and Gates explained the decision in a statement on the PBS website.
“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,” the statement said. “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.”
Never shy away from your morals and standards — unless the guest is a ”megastar.”
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