Ben Affleck appeared on a show called Finding Your Roots where the producers dig through your ancestry in order to see where you came from. It takes famous people’s histories and turns them into public fodder. Honestly, if we had the time, we could probably do the digging and find this information out for ourselves. Nevertheless, they dug a little deep into Affleck’s past and found that his ancestors were once slave owners.
Instead of stating the obvious in that he was ignorant of the information and obviously doesn’t condone the practice, he asked the show to sweep that information under the rug. The information came to light thanks to a leaked Sony email posted on Wikileaks’ website. The show’s host, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. asks the Sony chief Michael Lynton for advice on how to handle the request to omit the information.
He said in the email, “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. We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found. He’s a megastar. What do we do?”
Lynton responded, “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, Jr. has since issued a statement with regard to reason behind the omitted slave ownership of Ben Affleck’s ancestors. He said, “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.”
He concluded, “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 third great-grandfather who was an occult enthusiast, and his mother who marched for Civil Rights during the Freedom Summer of 1964.”
What do you think of the omission? Are you buying his statement on the matter? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section below.