The PBS series "Finding Your Roots" is all about uncovering the ancestry of the show's celebrity guests. But according to a hacked Sony email, one guest requested to have his family tree censored.
Ben Affleck was featured in a "Finding Your Roots" episode from last October, "Roots of Freedom," which discusses his Freedom Rider mother, a Revolutionary War ancestor and his third great-grandfather. But according to a hacked Sony email posted by WikiLeaks on Thursday, Affleck reportedly asked PBS to edit out information about an ancestor who owned slaves.
In the email, "Finding Your Roots" host Henry Louis Gates Jr. emailed Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton for advice regarding the request, the New York Daily News reported. In the email dated July 22, 2014, Gates wrote, "For the first time, one of our guests has asked us to edit out something about one of his ancestors -- the fact that he owned slaves."
Lynton replied, telling Gates to take it out if no one knew the material was already in the documentary. "I would take it out if no one knows," Lynton wrote, "but if it gets out that you are editing the material based on this kind of sensitivity then it gets tricky. Again, all things being equal I would definitely take it out."
Gates responded saying that removing the information would be "a violation of PBS rules, actually, even for Batman." The host later added that Affleck's ancestor "wasn't even a bad guy," noting that four or five of the other guests from the show that season, including Anderson Cooper, were descendants of slave owners.
Both Gates and PBS released statements on the network's website Friday regarding the hacked emails and the episode. "Ultimately, I maintain editorial control on all of my projects and, with my producers, decide what will make for the most compelling program," Gates said. "In the case of Mr. Affleck -- we focused on what we felt were the most interesting aspects of his ancestry." The network expressed its support for Gates and his producers' "independent editorial judgment to choose the most compelling narrative."
In a statement to The Huffington Post, a representative for Sony criticized WikiLeaks for the “indexing of stolen employee and other private and privileged information.”
“We vehemently disagree with WikiLeaks’ assertion that this material belongs in the public domain and will continue to fight for the safety, security, and privacy of our company and its more than 6,000 employees," the statement read.
A rep for Affleck did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.