Actor Ben Affleck admits he demanded that PBS genealogy show, “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr.,” bar any mention of his slave-owning ancestor out of “embarrassment.” Um, CNN’s Anderson Cooper had a similar revelation and didn’t have it from the world. It was included in his segment.
Wikileaks released the emails which were a part of the Sony hack. The emails between top Sony executive Michael Lynton and Henry Louis Gates Jr. focused on the quandary Gates found himself in over Affleck’s demands. The show would eventually cave to the actor’s request and did not mention the ancestor when the segment aired in October.
In a Facebook post, Affleck admitted he did lobby for the “embarrassing” finding not to be included in the episode. He wrote, “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. 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 continued, “I lobbied [the producer] the same way I lobby directors about what takes of mine I think they should use. This is the collaborative creative process. Skip [the show’s host, Henry Louis Gates Jr.] 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.”
He wrote, “Finding Your Roots is a show where you voluntarily provide a great deal of information about your family, making you quite vulnerable.” “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.”
“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,” Affleck wrote. “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.”