Ben Affleck Addresses Controversy Over Slave-Owning Ancestor

"I was embarrassed," the actor admits.

April 22, 2015, 9:40 AM

— -- "Batman v Superman" star Ben Affleck is coming clean about a leaked email that showed he wanted to hide details of his ancestry after being featured in an October episode of the PBS show "Finding Your Roots."

"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," Affleck, 42, admitted Tuesday on Facebook. "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."

He continued, "I lobbied [the producer] the same way I lobby directors about what takes of mine I think they should use. This is the collaborative creative process. Skip [the show's host, Henry Louis Gates] 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."

Affleck stressed, "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," he wrote. "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."

In the end, Affleck said he regrets his initial thoughts and regrets asking to have parts of his family history suppressed.

"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 wrote. "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."

After the news broke, Gates told The Associated Press that even though the ancestor in question never appeared on the show, it wasn't because of censorship.

"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 AP. "We decided to go with the story we used about his fascinating ancestor who became an occultist following the Civil War. This guy's story was totally unusual: We had never discovered someone like him before."

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