The Sony Hacks have uncovered some very unflattering facts about some of Hollywood’s top talent, one of which is Ben Affleck who apparently tried to nix details about his slave-owning ancestor during PBS’ “Finding Your Roots” in an attempt to keep his image intact. Producers behind the piece adamantly fought to avoid his request, but in the end, Affleck got his way. While the request is more damning than the revelation itself, I found myself confused about how Affleck would explain the infraction. Shockingly, he gave an extremely honest explanation, and all celebrities should take note. Read his full statement below. Hats off to Ben for copping to it.
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.
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.
Skip decided what went into the show. I lobbied him the same way I lobby directors about what takes of mine I think they should use. This is the collaborative creative process. Skip agreed with me on the slave owner but made other choices I disagreed with. In the end, it’s his show and I knew that going in. I’m proud to be his friend and proud to have participated.
It’s important to remember that this isn’t a news program. Finding Your Roots is a show where you voluntarily provide a great deal of information about your family, making you quite vulnerable. The assumption is that they will never be dishonest but they will respect your willingness to participate and not look to include things you think would embarrass your family.
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.