Henry Louis Gates apologizes for Ben Affleck show after PBS review
The host of the PBS show “Finding Your Roots” has apologized after a PBS review faulted him for his handling of a show about Ben Affleck.
The review found that Emmy-winning Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., who hosts the program that examines the family trees of celebrities, inappropriately bowed to pressure from Affleck that one of his slave-owning ancestors be excised from the show.
Gates and his fellow producers “violated PBS standards by failing to shield the creative and editorial process from improper influence, and by failing to inform PBS or WNET [the PBS member station where the program originates] of Mr. Affleck’s efforts to affect program content,” a summary of the review provided to the media on Wednesday stated.
As a result, PBS said it would delay the upcoming third season of “Finding Your Roots” until it was satisfied the program would not make the same mistake again. The network is also requiring the producers to hire an independent genealogist to verify the facts put forth on the program.
Gates immediately issued an apology in the wake of the summary’s release.
“I want to thank PBS for its thoughtful internal review,” the former MacArthur “genius grant” winner wrote in a statement. “I sincerely regret not discussing my editing rationale with our partners at PBS and WNET and I apologize for putting PBS and its member stations in the position of having to defend the integrity of their programming.”
“Finding Your Roots” became embroiled in controversy earlier this year when hacked emails surfaced on WikiLeaks in which Gates lamented to a top Sony boss that Affleck was pushing for the PBS show to delete mention of the slave owner in his family tree. The episode, which aired last year, did not discuss the relative and focused on other members of Affleck’s family.
Affleck apologized in April for his role in the situation, saying, “I was embarrassed. The very thought [of such an ancestor] left a bad taste in my mouth.”
What do you think of the PBS review and the controversy over “Finding Your Roots”? Did the network do the right thing?
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