A lengthy series of e-mails between Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a host of PBS’ “Finding Your Roots” and Sony chief Michael Lynton reveals Ben Affleck asked Gates Jr. to omit his slave owner ancestor from the program.
In July 2014, Gates Jr. wrote “For the first time, one of our guests has asked us to edit out something about one of his ancestors,” asking for direction.
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 Jr. cited other celebrities whose ancestors owned slaves but who never tried to hide it from the public, including Ken Burns and Anderson Cooper.
Gates Jr. issued a statement explaining his decision to do as Affleck had asked, only covering the actor’s Revolutionary War ancestor, an occult enthusiast and his mother who took part in the fight for Civil Rights. PBS supported the host’s decision.