In continuing fall out from those hacked Sony emails, Wikileaks revealed that actor Ben Affleck asked that his ancestor’s slave owning past be scrubbed from the program “Finding Your Roots,” and apparently it was, reports The New York Daily News.
Affleck asked that the slave-owning detail be edited out of “Finding Your Roots,” a show which traces the ancestry of prominent Americans, and helmed by executive producer Henry Louis Gates, who solicited advice from a Sony exec on how to handle Affleck’s ask.
The News reports that Gates “suggested that censoring this type of information could tarnish their branding if word got out” but Sony chief Michael Lynton said to acquiesce to the A-Lister if possible.
“We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found. He’s a megastar. What do we do?” wrote Gates, as reported by the News.
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,” he replied.
Gates reportedly offered to go visit the superstar on the set of “Batman vs. Superman” in Detroit to “talk it through,” though it’s not clear if he ever made the trip. “Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand,” Gates writes.
Ultimately, the detail was not included in Affleck’s profile.
On Friday, Gates released a statement defending the decision, which is below in full:
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.
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.