Did Ben Affleck try to cover up slave-owning ancestor?

Sony emails suggest Ben Affleck tried to hide... 02:23

Editor's Note: The original version of this story stated "Ben Affleck apparently asked PBS to withhold information about his slave-owning ancestor and emails suggest it created an ethical dilemma for PBS." In an email to CBS News, a PBS spokesperson stated, "PBS, as distributor of the series, and WNET were not told of Mr. Affleck's request to Professor Gates and the producers of FINDING YOUR ROOTS and were not part of that specific editorial decision made by Professor Gates and his producers." The story has been updated.

Oscar-winner Ben Affleck has not responded to troubling information from a set of leaked e-mails. The messages suggest he wanted to censor a documentary on his family history, reports CBS News correspondent Carter Evans.

In a 2014 episode of the PBS documentary series "Finding Your Roots," Affleck learned a great deal about his family tree. But according to private Sony emails published by WikiLeaks, he apparently didn't want the show to reveal that one of his ancestors owned slaves an asked one of the producers to withhold that information.

"Hollywood people do that all the time. They realize the power and influence of their participation in something and they use it to leverage particular type of coverage," Hollywood Reporter executive editor Matt Belloni said.

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In the episode that aired, Affleck learned about a relative who was a soldier in the Revolutionary War.

"This is a big surprise and really exciting and I'm really proud of it," he said.

But Affleck apparently asked executive producer Henry Louis Gates Jr. to withhold information about his slave-owning ancestor and emails suggest it created an ethical dilemma.

Last July, Gates emailed Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton to ask for advice.

"We've never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found. He's a megastar. What do we do?" Gates asked.

"It is tricky because it may get out that you made the change and it comes down to editorial integrity," Lynton responded.

"Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand," Gates later replied.

PBS said Gates reviewed 10 hours of footage for the episode and made an independent editorial judgment. In a statement to CBS News, Gates said the program chose to highlight other ancestors who had more interesting stories.

He pointed out that other stars like Ken Burns and Anderson Cooper both have slave-owning ancestors that were featured on the show.

"It's shameful and I feel a sense of shame over it," Cooper said in the series.

Affleck has yet to respond and there's no clear indication whether the leaks will hurt the reputation of the actor or PBS.

"It doesn't make PBS, which has an enormous amount of respect and has a great news brand, it doesn't make them look good," Belloni said.