Recently, the internet somehow found out that Ben Affleck had asked PBS not to include a scene of him discovering that one of his ancestors owned slaves in his episode of Finding Your Roots. The show is about using DNA technology and genealogical research to trace a famous person’s family history in order to find interesting things to say about them for an hour. During this process, PBS happened to find evidence that one of Affleck’s ancestors was a slave owner. At Affleck’s request, his episode—titled “Roots Of Freedom,” because irony is the best—left that part out.
Now Affleck has posted a message on Facebook explaining why he asked PBS to make this edit to his family history, and why he’s admitting the truth now. Basically and unsurprisingly, Affleck says he was “embarrassed” by this revelation. “The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth,” he said in the Facebook note, which is why he decided he’d rather keep it a secret. However, Affleck says he regrets that choice, adding “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 goes on to say that he’s happy his family history is getting people to talk about slavery, even if he doesn’t like knowing that one of his ancestors—a man from Georgia named Benjamin Cole—owned slaves.
Affleck also used his Facebook post to respond to accusations that he was censoring Finding Your Roots by making his request. He says that the show “isn’t a news program,” and that it was assumed that the show wouldn’t include things things like, say, whether or not your family owned slaves. PBS has said that it is now investigating this issue, but host/producer Henry Louis Gates, Jr. released a statement saying that he and his staff were simply “focused on what we felt were the most interesting aspects of [Affleck’s] ancestry.”