'Embarrassed' Ben Affleck Admits to Asking PBS to Hide Slave-Owning Ancestor's Past

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/ Source: NBC News

An "embarrassed" Ben Affleck admitted Tuesday that he asked producers of the PBS documentary show "Finding Your Roots" to edit out the discovery that one of his distant ancestors owned slaves.

The revelation came to light last week after emails about Affleck's shame were published online by whistleblower site WikiLeaks, which obtained tens of thousands of emails and private documents retrieved when Sony Pictures Entertainment was hacked last year.

The Oscar-winning director and writer, known for his humanitarian work in Africa, received backlash for supposedly wanting to conceal the information.

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"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," the actor wrote on his verified Facebook page.

He said he spoke with show host and Harvard scholar Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, and lobbied him to take out his scandalous family history.

"Skip agreed with me on the slave owner but made other choices I disagreed with," Affleck wrote. "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."

Affleck is never specifically named in the email exchange between Gates and Sony Pictures co-chairman and chief executive Michael Lynton. Gates does express concern that allowing a "megastar" to censor such information could compromise the show's integrity. Other celebrities who've appeared on the series include Jessica Alba, Stephen King and Tina Fey.

Affleck wrote that the show, while a documentary, is not a news program and that creators must also "respect your willingness to participate and not look to include things you think would embarrass your family."

Still, he said, he was regretful about censoring his story — and that the interest in what happened shows people still want to talk about slavery. "I am glad that my story, however indirectly, will contribute to that discussion," he wrote. "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."

Ben Affleck appears on NBC News' "Today" show.Peter Kramer / NBC NewsWire via Getty Images


— Erik Ortiz