The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) – a publicly funded institution run by hardened establishment liberals – succumbed to demands by Ben Affleck that producers of the PBS program “Finding Your Roots” delete details about the actor’s ancestors who owned slaves according to an email exchange between Sony the show’s host leaked last week.
The exchange between Sony CEO Michael Lynton and “Finding Your Roots” host Henry Louis Gates Jr. revealed that an unnamed “megastar” had asked producers to “edit out something about one of his ancestors – the fact that he owned slaves.” In a quandary, Gate’s said:
“Now, four or five of our guests this season descend from slave owners, including Ken Burns. We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found…” “What do we do?”
Lynton asked who else knew about the historical discovery and said “it gets tricky” when editing out material “based on this kind of sensitivity.” Gates replied that the producers of the show, the star’s PR agents, and PBS already knew about the slave-owning ancestor. The exchange continued:
“To do this would be a violation of PBS rules, actually, even for Batman,” Gates wrote.
“[T]hen it is tricky because it may get out that you made the change and it comes down to editorial integrity,” Lynton emailed back. “We can talk when you land.”
In response, Gates said “Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand.”
At the end of the exchange, Gates signaled that that the producers of the show would not edit out the information about Affleck’s ancestor but it was not to be so.
“Finding Your Roots” producers made the change deleting Affleck’s slave-owning ancestor from the actor’s segment on the program. Instead, Affleck’s segment followed the exploits of the actor’s sixth grandfather, Jesse Stanley, who fought in the American Revolution, and another grandfather who served as a mystic during the Civil War.
A spokeswoman for Gates issued a statement to the Daily Mail on behalf of the Emmy-nominated producer saying:
“Ultimately, I maintain editorial control on all of my projects and, with my producers, decide what will make for the most compelling program…” “In the case of Mr. Affleck – we focused on what we felt were the most interesting aspects of his ancestry – including a Revolutionary War ancestor, a 3rd great-grandfather who was an occult enthusiast, and his mother who marched for Civil Rights during the Freedom Summer of 1964.”
In their own response, PBS said:
“It is clear from the exchange how seriously Professor Gates takes editorial integrity. He has told us that after reviewing approximately ten hours of footage for the episode, he and his producers made an independent editorial judgement to choose the most compelling narrative. The range and depth of the stories on Finding Your Roots speak for themselves.”
The leaked email exchange between Gates and Lynton was part of the roughly 30,000 Sony Pictures emails published following the release of the comedy “The Interview” – a fictionalized account about two Americans invited to interview North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un after being recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency to assassinate the leader.
Many believe that Sony’s email system was hacked to intimidate producers of the film and prevent its release – a ruse that worked when Sony cancelled screenings on opening day before distributing “The Interview” direct to cable and streaming sites including Netflix.