Monday 26 September 2016

Affleck 'tried to hide details of slave-owning ancestor'

Norman Smith Boston

Published 20/04/2015 | 02:30

Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck

ACTOR Ben Affleck requested that a documentary show not reveal he had a slave-owning ancestor, according to emails published online by whistleblower site WikiLeaks.

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The information never appeared on the programme.

The PBS documentary series 'Finding Your Roots' PBS and Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, host of the show, trace the ancestry of well-known guests.

Both the show and the host said they didn't censor the slave-owner details but the information did not appear in the programme. Instead, more interesting ancestors of the actor emerged and Gates chose to highlight them in October's segment featuring Affleck, they insisted.

"For any guest, we always find far more stories about ancestors on their family trees than we ever possibly could use," Gates said.

He said finding slave-owning ancestors was very common in the series.

In Affleck's case, "we decided to go with the story we used about his fascinating ancestor who became an occultist following the Civil War. This guy's story was totally unusual: we had never discovered someone like him before," he said.

Affleck (right) did not immediately respond to an email request for comment. The award-winning actor and filmmaker has been involved in humanitarian work in Africa.

In the email chain between Gates and Sony Pictures boss Michael Lynton, Gates asks Lynton for advice on how to handle Affleck's request.

"Here's my dilemma: confidentially, for the first time, one of our guests has asked us to edit out something about one of his ancestors - the fact that he owned slaves. We've never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found. He's a megastar. What do we do?" Gates wrote on July 22, 2014.

Lynton replies that it all depends on who knows that the information was in the documentary already.

"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."

Irish Independent

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