- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 18, 2015

New Sony emails posted by WikiLeaks on Friday reveal that actor Ben Affleck demanded that PBS show “Finding Your Roots” hide one of his ancestor’s slave-owning history.

In a July 22, 2014 email the show’s host, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., asked Sony USA boss Michael Lynton how he should address Mr. Affleck’s request.

“One of our guests has asked us to edit out something about one of his ancestors — the fact that he owned slaves,” Mr. Gates said in the email, the New York Post reported Friday. “Now, four or five of our guests this season descend from slave owners, including Ken Burns. We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found. He’s a megastar. What do we do?”

Mr. Lynton replied that it would be alright to censor the material as long as no one found out, The New York Post reported Friday.

“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,” Mr. Lynton said, The Post reported.

Mr. Gates wrote back that the show’s producers as well as Mr. Affleck’s publicist knew about the request.

“To do this would be a violation of PBS rules… It would embarrass [Affleck] and compromise our integrity… Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand,” Mr. Gates wrote, the newspaper reported.

However, the episode, which aired last October made no mention of Mr. Affleck’s slave-owning ancestor.

In a statement published by the Boston Globe, PBS said that Mr. Gates and his producers decided to leave out the details of Mr. Affleck’s slave-owning ancestor and go with a more “compelling narrative.”

“It is clear from the exchange how seriously Professor Gates takes editorial integrity. He has told us that after reviewing approximately ten hours of footage for the episode, he and his producers made an independent editorial judgment to choose the most compelling narrative. The range and depth of the stories on “Finding Your Roots” speak for themselves,” the statement reads.



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