PBS and Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, host of the show that traces the ancestry of well-known guests, said in separate statements that they didn’t censor the slave-owner details. Instead, more interesting ancestors of the actor emerged and Gates chose to highlight them in October’s segment featuring Affleck, they said in the statements posted on the PBS website.
“For any guest, we always find far more stories about ancestors on their family trees than we ever possibly could use,” Gates said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press. He said finding slave-owning ancestors was very common in the series, and noted Ken Burns and Anderson Cooper were two guests with slave-owner relatives.
In Affleck’s case, “we decided to go with the story we used about his fascinating ancestor who became on occultist following the Civil War. This guy’s story was totally unusual: we had never discovered someone like him before,” he said.
Affleck’s rep did not immediately respond to an email request for comment Saturday. The award-winning actor and filmmaker (“Good Will Hunting” and “Argo”) has also organized humanitarian work in Africa.
The email chain between Gates and Sony Pictures co-chairman and chief executive Michael Lynton was part of a trove of hundreds of thousands of emails and documents from last year’s Sony hack that WikiLeaks put into a searchable online archive on Thursday.
In their email exchange, Gates asks Lynton for advice on how to handle Affleck’s…..