Finding Your Roots, which aired on PBS, has been suspended until new editorial staffing changes can be made, reports the network. Finding Your Roots was suspended after the public was alerted in the Sony Entertainment hack in April that Ben Affleck requested embarrassing information about his ancestors to be censored from the show.
What was so embarrassing that Ben asked for the information to be suppressed?
Turns out his great great great grandfather, Benjamin Cole, was the “trustee” of seven slaves, as well as a sheriff in Chatham County, Georgia, in the 1850s, reports the Washington Post about why the program was suspended. Affleck agreed to be on Finding Your Roots because he wanted to find “the roots of his family’s interest in social justice,” since his mother was reportedly very interested in the civil rights campaign in the 1960s. While he found out about his mother’s role in that movement, researchers also discovered that his ancestor owned slaves.
The news that Affleck requested Finding Your Roots to suppress the information about his ancestors became public after the Sony Entertainment hack, which leaked email correspondences between Harvard professor and the program’s co-producer, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Sony CEO Michael Lynton. The emails reference Ben’s request that Finding Your Roots censor the information about his great great grandfather, as previously reported by the Inquisitr.
The hackers stole about 30,000 emails, including the one that got Finding Your Roots suspended and emails that divulged disparaging comments about President Barack Obama and movie star Angelina Jolie, reports the Atlanta Black Star.
“We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found,” Gates says in the leaked emails that got his show suspended, according to the Washington Post. “He’s a megastar. What do we do?”
As PBS opened an investigation into the integrity of Finding Your Roots, co-producer Gates initially told the station that the portion of the show was cut to make way for more interesting clips. The network didn’t buy it, and in a statement, said, “[Finding Your Roots] co-producers violated PBS standards by failing to shield the creative and editorial process from improper influence, and by failing to inform PBS or WNET of Mr. Affleck’s efforts to affect program content,” the station said about why Finding Your Roots was suspended.
When asked directly in an April interview about why he asked the now suspended show to censor the clip, Affleck replied he was “embarrassed” of his ancestor. “I didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves.” There’s no information about when Finding Your Roots will air again.
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