But the secrets aren’t even results of his actions. They’re from his ancestor, hundred of years ago, who happened to be a slave owner.
Technically, it wouldn’t be a problem if the actor didn’t want to divulge this information. I don’t really blame him for not tweeting the news out with gusto.
It’s an issue because the truth about Affleck’s ancestor was censored from Finding Your Roots, a PBS documentary Affleck was a part of.
Viewers learned all about Affleck’s Civil War-era ancestor and a Revolutionary War ancestor. They also learned about his mother, who fought for civil rights in the 1960s. It’s unclear which ancestor owned slaves because the documentary left the information out, which is a violation of PBS’ rules. The omission has caused many to now question PBS’ integrity.
The information about the censorship was released thanks to the Sony hack. An email conversation was discovered between documentary host and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sony chief executive Michael Lynton. According to the Daily Mail, Gates, who is also one of the makers of the documentary, reached out to Lynton for advice after Affleck said he didn’t want the information about his ancestor’s past revealed in the documentary.
In the emails, Lynton responded to Gates by saying, “I would take it out if no one knows.”
Gates even mentioned he was concerned to “open the door to censorship” because he didn’t want to “lose control of the brand.”
Gates goes on to say that if the information was leaked that they censored the material, it “would embarrass him [Affleck] and compromise our integrity.”
“I’ve offered to fly to Detroit, where he is filming,” Gates continues, “to talk it through.”
But, in the end, it seems the decision was made to leave out the information anyway.
After the leak, Gates claimed the information wasn’t included because it wasn’t considered interesting enough to warrant inclusion, according to the Daily Mail.
But the email exchange seems to ardently contradict Gates’ statement, which read, in part, “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.”
Affleck supports a lot of liberal causes, so it’s suspected that he didn’t want the information to get out so that he could protect his brand from any unseen reactions to the news of his ancestors. But Affleck has yet to comment on the news of the scandal.
Why those involved deemed the information to be such a big deal is sort of a mystery. Though it’s definitely a dark time in the United States’ history that none of us should be proud of, many of us have white ancestors who, unfortunately, owned slaves. It’s the reality of the world we live in. It probably wouldn’t have been that big of a deal at all if Affleck revealed the information in the documentary.
In fact, the coverup seems even sillier when you realize that other celebrities in the program revealed their families’ pasts. For example, Anderson Cooper discovered in the same documentary that his distant relative was a slave owner and was beaten to death by a slave.
Instead, now, the integrity of all involved is being called into question thanks to the leak.
UPDATE April 21, 2015: Ben Affleck has responded to the controversy, saying he initially didn’t want the information about his slave-owning ancestor included in the show because he was “embarrassed.”
“After an exhaustive search of my ancestry for Finding Your Roots, it was discovered that one of my distant relatives was an owner of slaves,” the actor wrote in a lengthy post on his Facebook page Tuesday. “I didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves. I was embarrassed. The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth.”
He continued, “I regret my initial thoughts that the issue of slavery not be included in the story. We deserve neither credit nor blame for our ancestors and the degree of interest in this story suggests that we are, as a nation, still grappling with the terrible legacy of slavery. It is an examination well worth continuing. I am glad that my story, however indirectly, will contribute to that discussion. While I don’t like that the guy is an ancestor, I am happy that aspect of our country’s history is being talked about.”