PBS to Conduct "Internal Review" Over Ben Affleck's Request to Hide Slave-Owner Ancestry

Ben Affleck - H 2014
AP Images/Invision

Ben Affleck - H 2014

The internal review follows WikiLeaks' revelation that the actor-director asked Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. to censor his episode of the host's 'Finding Your Roots' show.

PBS and WNET have opened an investigation after the revelation that Ben Affleck requested his slave-owner ancestry be censored from the PBS program Finding Your Roots.

"PBS and WNET are conducting an internal review led by our respective programming teams of the circumstances around the Finding Your Roots episode 'Roots of Freedom,' " the pubcasters said in a joint statement on Tuesday. The probe follows hacked Sony emails that surfaced last Friday indicating Affleck asked for certain aspects of his origins to be removed from his family tree on the PBS program, which is hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The joint statement said Gates and his producers responded quickly to initial questioning from PBS over the controversy but that further investigation was required. "In order to gather the facts to determine whether or not all of PBS' editorial standards were observed, on Saturday, April 18, we began an internal review," it said.

"We have been moving forward deliberately yet swiftly to conduct this review," added the broadcasters.

The probe is likely to question why Gates, according to the WikiLeaks emails, emailed Sony chief Michael Lynton for "advice" on Affleck's request, rather than PBS, reported the New York Daily News.

Gates suggested during the exchange that, if word got out about the censorship, the brand would be tarnished and, "even for Batman," it would be a violation of PBS rules. Gates, who is a Harvard professor, defended his decision to edit out Affleck's slave-owner ancestor in a statement posted Friday on the PBS website.

Said Gates: "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 third great-grandfather who was an occult enthusiast and his mother, who marched for Civil Rights during the Freedom Summer of 1964."