Affleck’s desires were ultimately granted, but he said he regretted making the request after e-mails revealing what he wanted were shared in the Sony hacked email scandal.
Affleck’s ancestry was traced by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr, for an episode in the second season of his Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) series “Finding Your Roots,” in which well-known personalities get to discover fascinating information about their family history.
“I didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves,” Affleck wrote on his Facebook page. “I was embarrassed. The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth.
“I regret my initial thoughts that the issue of slavery not be included in the story.”
In 30,000 emails released by WikiLeaks, the back-and-forth between Gates and Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton outline Affleck’s request and Gates’ opposition to it.
Last July 22, Gates wrote Lynton that an unnamed “megastar” had asked producers to “edit out something about one of his ancestors—the fact that he owned slaves.”
He added that “four or five of our guests this season descend from slave owners,” including the renowned documentary-maker Ken Burns, the man behind such famous films as The Civil War.
“We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found. What do we do?” Gates wrote.
Lynton asked who else knew about the information in question, advising that “it gets tricky” when editing out material “based on this kind of sensitivity.”
Gates replied that the producers of the show, the star’s PR agents and PBS knew about the slave-owning ancestor.
“To do this would be a violation of PBS rules, actually, even for Batman,” responded Gates, who apparently was about to take a flight.
Lynton wrote back: “It is tricky because it may get out that you made the change and it comes down to editorial integrity. We can talk when you land.”
Gates, in the final email, clearly understood what it meant to include all discovered information.
“Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand,” he wrote.
Neither side is saying how the show aired without the mentioning of Affleck’s ancestor owning slaves.