PBS has announced the postponement of the forthcoming season of Finding Your Roots, according to the New York Times.
The show determined that an episode omitting references to Ben Affleck’s slave-owning lineage violated its standards.
The show, hosted by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., traces family histories of celebrities and public figures. PBS launched an internal investigation after Wikileaks published hacked Sony emails revealing that a “megastar” was pressuring producers not to reveal an ancestor’s slave-holding history.
The episode, broadcast in October, made no mention of Affleck’s slave-owning relative. Gates defended the episode, asserting that producers had discovered more interesting ancestors from Affleck’s family, including a relative from the Revolutionary War. An examination of historical documents by the Associated Press later discovered that Affleck’s great-great-great-grandfather owned 24 slaves.
Affleck released a statement via Facebook in April, expressing that his embarrassment is what led him to requesting the omission. “I didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves,” Affleck wrote.
PBS’s investigation noted that that producers violated network standards by allowing the actor “improper influence” over the show’s content and also “by failing to inform PBS of Affleck’s concerns.”
In order for the show’s third season to air, PBS has mandated staffing changes to include the addition of a fact checker and “independent genealogist” to review the show’s contents moving forward.
Gates released a statement Wednesday apologizing to PBS:
I sincerely regret not discussing my editing rationale with our partners at PBS and apologize for putting PBS and its member stations in the position of having to defend the integrity of their programming.