Ben Affleck demanded that the PBS show "Finding Your Roots" edit out that one of his ancestors owned slaves, according to one of the thousands of emails the WikiLeaks site put online this past week.
In the email exchange, the show's host, Henry Louis Gates Jr. asked Sony USA head Michael Lynton for advice, reports the New York Post's Page Six Friday,
as a "megastar" wanted the information about his ancestor edited out.
Affleck is not directly addressed by name, but Gates, a friend of Lynton's, says that editing out the information "would be a violation of PBS rules, actually, even for Batman." He was referring to Affleck's upcoming star turn as the comic book action hero.
In the email, written last July 22, Gates told Lynton that one of the show's guests asked that the fact that his ancestor was a slave owner, and pointed out that "four or five of our guests this season descend from slave owners, including Ken Burns."
Further, he said that nobody has ever tried to censor or edit what was found, and asked Lynton's advice.
The Sony head advised Gates to take Affleck's dark secret out of the show.
"The big question is who knows that the material is in the doc and is being taken out," Lynton said. "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.”
Gates said that hiding such facts would violate PBS rules, and there would be many people who would know the truth.
"All my producers would know; his PR agency the same as mine, and everyone there has been involved trying to resolve this; my agent at CAA knows. And PBS would know," said Gates. "To do this would be a violation of PBS rules, actually, even for Batman.”
Lynton acknowledged that the situation could get tricky, and Gates told him that it would "embarrass him [Affleck] and compromise our integrity.”
But as for Affleck's ancestor?
"He wasn't even a bad guy," said Gates. "We don't demonize him at all. Now Anderson Cooper's ancestor was a real s.o.b.; one of his slaves actually murdered him. Of course, the slave was promptly hanged. And Anderson didn't miss a beat about that. Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand."
WikiLeaks on Thursday said it had published 30,287 documents
and 173,132 emails stemming from last winter's cyber-attack on Sony that was initiated by North Korea in response for its decision to produce "The Interview," a comedy about an assassination attempt on Kim Jong-un.
Site's founder Julian Assange said the materials "belong in the public domain," citing Sony's status as a multi-national company with links to various government organizations. That argument fell flat with Sony's public relations team.
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