As more Sony leaks surfaced this week, Ben Affleck was one of the many people caught in the crossfire of exposed emails after his demands for a PBS special surfaced. The actor, clearly embarrassed about a piece of his past, insisted that PBS hide the fact that one of his ancestors owned slaves.
Florida News Time reports that while Affleck explored the positive aspects of his family roots on the PBS documentary, Finding Your Roots, which aired on October 14, 2014, viewers were told nothing about one of the actor’s male ancestors, who was a confirmed slave owner.
In an email sent on July 22, 2014, the PBS show’s host, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., asked Michael Lynton, the chief executive officer of Sony Entertainment Inc., advice on how to handle Affleck’s request.
“One of our guests has asked us to edit out something about one of his ancestors–the fact that he owned slaves. 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?”
Lynton advised Gates to remove the part about Affleck’s slave-owning ancestor, but he was quick to write that it should be only done as long as no one finds out. Unfortunately, the plans were squashed when their emails were leaked this week.
“On the doc the big question is who knows that the material is in the doc and is being taken out. 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.”
In the same email conversation, Gates admits that it’s against PBS rules to hide facts from the show, and would be a violation for Affleck as well, who Gates refers to as simply “Batman.” Gates also asserted that the show’s producers, as well as Affleck’s public relations management, would know about the censored information.
In another email to Lynton, Gates touched upon the subject of integrity, and what would happen should they honor Affleck’s request.
“Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand.”
Yet, the show decided to give Affleck what he wanted, and left out any indication of his ancestor that once owned slaves. Instead, the show focused on another one the star’s ancestors, who was a mystic during the Civil War. It also focused on Affleck’s mother, who participated in a Civil Rights march in 1964.
Today, a humbled Gates made a statement on the issue, and offered an explanation to the public as to why he decided to cut out an important factor of Affleck’s ancestry.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Ben Affleck recently faced yet another leak, when the Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer was exposed online this week. The trailer, uploaded by a YouTube user, shows a flashing glimpse of Affleck’s face before Batman appears. The leaked trailer was quickly shut down. The new film is slated to open in theaters on March 25, 2016.
[Photo Courtesy of Mark Wilson/Getty Images]