Ben Affleck Addresses Finding Your Roots Controversy in Facebook Post
"I didn't want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves," he wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday
After PBS announced Tuesday it was launching an investigation into the removal of particular information from its program Finding Your Roots due to specific requests from Ben Affleck, the actor spoke out on Facebook about the controversy.
“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,” the star, 42, wrote in a Facebook post. “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.”
While Affleck admits he “lobbied” the show’s host Henry Louis Gates to leave out the discovery, he also reminds viewers in his note that the show “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,” he writes. “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.”
Saying he now regrets his “initial thoughts that the issue of slavery not be included in the story,” Affleck hopes the attention on his and PBS’s actions in the last few days leads to a wider discussion of slavery.
“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,” he writes. “It is an examination well worth continuing 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 actor returned to Facebook on Wednesday to answer follow-up questions from fans commenting on his page.
“Thanks for the comments here. To clarify, because I see this story being framed as ‘censorship’ on some sites, when I told Skip I was uneasy about the slave owner, he told me he had not included it in his preliminary cut because there wasn’t much detail – a name and no details, so he wasn’t going with it to begin with. He also told me they would do a book later with a more complete story, and I said I would be happy to participate and talk about the issues more broadly.”
Affleck also responded to questions as to the identity of his slave-owning ancestor.
“Lots of people here have been asking who the guy was,” Affleck wrote. “His name was Benjamin Cole – lived in Georgia on my Mom’s side about six generations back.”