Hollywood superstar Ben Affleck says he regrets asking a television program to cut out part of his family history revealing ties to a slave owner, and PBS is opening up an investigation into how the censorship occurred, reports CBS News correspondent Vladimir Duthiers.
Affleck said he was embarrassed when "Finding Your Roots," discovered one of his ancestors was a slave owner. But an attempt to hide his concern backfired, leaving the Academy Award winner wishing he could go back and edit his decision.
"I was embarrassed. The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth," Affleck wrote Tuesday night on his Facebook page. "I regret my initial thoughts that the issue of slavery not be included in the story."
Affleck isn't the only celebrity with a controversial family history in the series. Derek Jeter, Ken Burns and Anderson Cooper all learned they are related to slave owners when they participated in the program.
"I think Ben Affleck did what he had to do," Variety co-editor-in-chief Andrew Wallenstein said. "There were so many questions swirling about just what went on here. I think he had to come clean."
According to private Sony emails published by WikiLeaks, Affleck apparently asked a producer to withhold information about his slave-owning ancestry.
Last July, the series' executive producer Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 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 said.
"It is tricky because it may get out that you made the change and it comes down to editorial integrity," Lynton responded.
Affleck said it was Gates who made the decision about what went into the show, but he acknowledged on Facebook that he had "lobbied him the same way I lobby directors about what takes of mine I think they should use. This is the collaborative creative process."
"What he was doing with PBS was a documentary. That's quite a different thing than picking a shot in a fiction movie," Wallenstein said.
The program's distributor, PBS, said it only learned of the issue on Friday and has since launched an internal investigation into the episode.
"This is a brand that is known for great work of all kinds, and certainly a lot of integrity," Wallstein said. "So when something like this comes along and gives people reason to question that integrity, there's cause for concern."
"CBS This Morning" reached out to Gates for comment and has not yet received a response. He said on Sunday, that he maintains "editorial control on all of my projects and, with my producers, decide what will make for the most compelling program. In the case of Mr. Affleck, we focused on what we felt were the most interesting aspects of his ancestry."