Ben Affleck: "I didn't want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves. I was embarrassed"

The actor finally addresses his lobbying of Henry Louis Gates to keep his ancestor's slave-owning past hidden

By Salon Staff
Published April 22, 2015 12:18AM (EDT)
Ben Affleck         (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)
Ben Affleck (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

Sony Corp. emails made public last week by WikiLeaks revealed that Henry Louis Gates decided to remove a history of slave-owners within Ben Affleck's family from his PBS genealogy show "Finding Your Roots," after a request from the actor. The New York Post first reported that story.

Today came word that PBS and a New York public TV station are investigating. Now Affleck has finally spoken.

He took to Facebook this evening to respond as follows. Here's his statement in full:

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.

Ben Affleck

Salon Staff

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Ben Affleck Henry Louis Gates Slaves