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Ben Affleck says he 'regrets' asking PBS to hide his slave-owner ancestry

The actor asked PBS to scrub his slave-owning ancestry from an episode of the genealogy show Finding Your Roots.

By Kate Stanton
Ben Affleck says he 'regrets' asking PBS to hide his slave-owner ancestry
Ben Affleck says he was "embarrassed" when he found out that he's related to people who owned slaves. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI. | License Photo

NEW YORK, April 21 (UPI) -- Ben Affleck has addressed revelations that he asked PBS to edit out a slave-owning ancestor from an October episode of the network's genealogy show, Finding Your Roots.

"I didn't want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves," Affleck said Tuesday in a Facebook post. "I was embarrassed. The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth."

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In hacked Sony emails published by Wikileaks last week, Finding Your Roots host Henry Louis Gates Jr., said Affleck asked producers to censor details about a distant relative who owned slaves.

Gates defended the episode, which did not include the slave-owner ancestor, saying that Affleck's objection to the content did not affect his editorial judgement.

"We focused on what we felt were the most interesting aspects of his ancestry," Gates said.

Affleck said Tuesday he "lobbied" Gates not to include the information but argued that it was part of the "collaborative creative process."

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.

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But Affleck admitted that he "regrets" his outlook on the issue.

"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," Affleck said.

"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," he added.

Affleck's statement follows PBS' decision to conduct an internal investigation into whether the show's producers violated any editorial guidelines.

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