The PBS television series "Finding Your Roots," which traces the family histories of celebrities, was suspended after an investigation revealed that actor Ben Affleck pressured producers into hiding a slave-owning ancestor.
"The series co-producers violated PBS standards by failing to shield the creative and editorial process from improper influence, and by failing to inform PBS or WNET of Mr. Affleck’s efforts to affect program content," the network concluded in its investigation report
, released Wednesday.
"Finding Your Roots" is produced in part by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
PBS claimed that it never knew of the censorship of the Affleck episode, which aired in October, until the large-scale hack of Sony Entertainment this spring. The hack revealed email correspondence between Gates and Sony CEO Michael Lynton that referenced Affleck's requests for censorship.
"We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found," Gates wrote to Lynton in July 2014. "Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand," he added.
According to The Washington Post
, Benjamin Cole, a great-great-great grandparent on Affleck's mother’s side, was the "trustee" of seven slaves, as well as a sheriff in Chatham County, Georgia, in the 1850s.
PBS said the third season of "Finding Your Roots" will not run until staffing changes are made, and everything is thoroughly fact checked.
In April, Affleck said he was "embarrassed" of his ancestor, adding, "I didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves."
"How does Affleck’s reluctance to discuss his personal connection to the slave-owning past make him different from 200 million or so other white Americans, who seem overwhelmingly and suspiciously eager to consign that entire topic to the historical oubliette, the category of Stuff That Doesn’t Matter Anymore and Maybe Never Did?" wrote one of the actor's critics on Salon.com, reported The Post.
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