Ben Affleck requested his slave owner ancestor be censored from PBS' 'Finding Your Roots'
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 26: Actor Ben Affleck, founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative, listens to testimony during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill March 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony on diplomacy, development, and national security in regards to Africa. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Actor Ben Affleck testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 26, 2015, before the Senate State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs subcommittee hearing on diplomacy, development and national. security. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
US actor Ben Affleck testifies on issues in the Republic of Congo during a US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on Capitol Hill, on February 26, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 07: (EDITORS NOTE: This Image was taken in B/W color not availabe). Actor Ben Affleck, backstage during The 41st Annual People's Choice Awards at Nokia Theatre LA Live on January 7, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The People's Choice Awards)
Actor and Eastern Congo Initiative Founder Ben Affleck listens to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Congo. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
CENTURY CITY, CA - FEBRUARY 14: Honoree Ben Affleck accepts the Valentine Davies Award onstage at the 2015 Writers Guild Awards L.A. Ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on February 14, 2015 in Century City, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for WGAw)
Actor, filmmaker and Eastern Congo Initiative founder, Ben Affleck and wife actress Jennifer Garner attend the 2nd Annual Save the Children Illumination Gala at The Plaza Hotel on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Ben Affleck poses in the press room at the 71st annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 26: Actors Ben Affleck (L) and Henry Cavill attend the Warner Bros. Pictures panel and presentation during Comic-Con International 2014 at San Diego Convention Center on July 26, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 14: Actor Ben Affleck accepts the Hollywood Film Award for 'Gone Girl' onstage during the 18th Annual Hollywood Film Awards at The Palladium on November 14, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 26: Ben Affleck, former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speak during a photo op at The State Department on February 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. Affleck, founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative, will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the war torn African country. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)
CENTURY CITY, CA - JANUARY 25: Director Alfonso Cuaron (L), winner of the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film for 2013 award for ÂGravity,Â and actor-director Ben Affleck pose in the press room during the 66th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on January 25, 2014 in Century City, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Actor and director Ben Affleck reacts as he receives an honorary degree at Brown University's commencement in Providence, R.I., Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Ben Affleck arrives at Project Greenlight Season Four Winner Revealed on Friday, Nov. 7, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Ben Affleck at UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television's 22nd Annual Film Festival DIRECTOR SPOTLIGHT HONORING BEN AFFLECK on Thursday, June, 13, 2013 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for UCLA TFT/AP Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 18: (L-R) Singer/actor Justin Timberlake, actress Gemma Arterton and actor/director Ben Affleck introduce the world premiere of Twentieth Century Fox and New Regency's film 'Runner Runner' at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on September 18, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
CULVER CITY, CA - JUNE 08: Actor/director Ben Affleck poses with members of the American armed forces at Spike TV's Guys Choice 2013 at Sony Pictures Studios on June 8, 2013 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Spike TV)
Ben Affleck arrives for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. Affleck's Iran hostage drama 'Argo' won the coveted best film Oscar late Sunday, while Daniel Day-Lewis took a record third best actor prize at the 85th Academy Awards, Hollywood's biggest night. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
CULVER CITY, CA - JUNE 08: Actor/director Ben Affleck sits in the audience during Spike TV's Guys Choice 2013 at Sony Pictures Studios on June 8, 2013 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Spike TV)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Actors Jennifer Garner(L) and Ben Affleck arrive at the Oscars at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 02: Ben Affleck is seen at 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' on December 02, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by RB/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
Palisades CA - Sept 20: Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck take the kids out on a Sunday to the farmers market in Palisades California on September 20 2015 Credit: Jon Misa / MediaPunch/IPX
Cary Fukunaga, right, director of the film "Beasts of No Nation," poses with cast member Abraham Attah, center, and special host Ben Affleck before a screening of the film at the Directors Guild of America on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
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Hacked Sony emails reveal that actor-directorBen 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 went on to say that if word got out of the censoring, the brand would be tarnished and, "even for Batman," would be a violation of PBS rules.
"Now, four or five of our guests this season descend from slave owners, including Ken Burns," Gates continued in the email, suggesting the actor's ancestor "wasn't even a bad guy."
"Now Anderson Cooper's ancestor was a real s.o.b.; one of his slaves actually murdered him. Of course, the slave was promptly hanged. And Anderson didn't miss a beat about that," Gates further wrote.
"We've never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found. He's a megastar. What do we do?" Gates inquired of Lynton, to which the Sony chief replied, "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. Again, all things being equal I would definitely take it out."
Gates defended the decision to edit out Affleck's ancestor in a statement posted Friday on the PBS website.
Statement from Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Regarding Finding Your Roots Episode "Roots of Freedom"
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.
Statement from PBS Regarding Finding Your Roots Episode "Roots of Freedom"
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.