Ben Affleck Apologizes for Hiding Slave Owner Family History
News broke yesterday (April 20) that actor Ben Affleck attempted to hide the fact that an ancestor of his once owned slaves from an airing of the show Finding Your Roots. He has since explained his reasoning behind doing so via a message posted on his official Facebook page.
Ben wrote that he felt embarrassed to be related to someone who owned slaves, no matter how distant that relation may be. He explained that he regrets his original request to cut the footage out of the final airing, but is glad to be part of and to have opened up a discussion about slavery. You can check out his full statement below.
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.
The controversy began yesterday, when an alleged email mentioning Affleck's request that was sent from the show's host, Henry Louis Gates Jr. to the Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton made its way onto the web. The episode did not air the information about Affleck's ancestor.