The Sony hack just keeps on getting more interesting and now emails have uncovered information about PBS’s Finding Your Roots, hosted by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. — recently aired episode featuring Ben Affleck wasn’t exactly the whole story about his family’s history.

As with most white people in the U.S., Affleck’s ancestors included slave owners, but that information was completely removed from his episode. What was aired instead included feel-good stories about his ancestors who fought in various wars.

Information from leaked emails between Gates and Sony chief executive Michael Lynton shows that although Gates knew it would be wrong to remove the information from the show, they did it anyways:


As Gates pointed out in the emails there have been other guests on the show, namely Anderson Cooper, whose ancestors owned slaves and that information wasn’t excluded. Since this has happened, one has to wonder what other information has been kept out of segments following Affleck’s.

Gates and PBS released a statement on Friday addressing the issue:

Statement from Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The mission of “Finding Your Roots” is to find and share interesting stories from our celebrity guests’ ancestries and use those stories to unlock new ways to learn about our past. We are very grateful to all of our guests for allowing us into their personal lives and have told hundreds of stories in this series including many about slave ancestors—never shying away from chapters of a family’s past that might be unpleasant. 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.

Statement from PBS

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 judgment to choose the most compelling narrative. The range and depth of the stories on Finding Your Roots speak for themselves.

Image Credit: PBS

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