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June 25, 2015

PBS Suspends Finding Your Roots Over Affleck's Improper Influence

 Finding Your Roots is a TV show with host Henry Louis Gates Jr. and has been on air for 2 Seasons. The premise is similar to Who Do You Think You Are? and traces the roots and family histories of celebrity guests.

When an episode featuring Ben Affleck aired last October it was later learned (through hacked emails) that Affleck had told Gates he did not want mention made of his slave owning ancestors. Gates and the show's producer removed all mention. 

When the emails surfaced there was a huge outcry from fans and genealogists alike, most of whom were dismayed at the editorial liberties taken by the show to hush up the past and hide the facts. 

At the time Gates defended the decision to not air Affleck's ancestors' slave owning deeds by saying that the producers found "more interesting" ancestors to talk about.

After an investigation, PBS found that "... producers violated network standards by letting Mr. Affleck have “improper influence” and “by failing to inform PBS or WNET of Mr. Affleck’s efforts to affect program content.”

Before Season 3 airs, PBS plans on making staff changes and has not yet reached a decision as to whether or not there will be a fourth Season. 

Read more in the NY Times at Citing Ben Affleck’s ‘Improper Influence,’ PBS Suspends ‘Finding Your Roots’


Carol C. Reynolds said...

Keep Henry Louis Gates, Jr. he is very knowledgeable and professional in his manner to EVERYONE. If the producers blew it, then they need the reprimand. This is a wonderful show and I hope that 1 person doesn't ruin it for everyone else. I have found many helps from this show that aided me in some of my own family searches.

Sandy said...

I too really enjoyed this show, its a great idea, love the concept and hope it returns!

Russell F said...

Gates might be professional and knowledgeable. But IMO a host he is not. He is very dry and to be honest very boring. If you read the article this doesn't fall on the shoulders of the producers alone.

Anonymous said...

Such a great show. I've always thought it should be focused around regular people, not celebrities. I agree that findings should not be influenced or censored. But I do wish there was some way that PBS could continue the show. So many stories to tell. They need not be about actors who wish to falsify their lives.

Chere McFarland

Sharon said...

Really enjoy this shoe and would hate to see it ruined by such unwise decisions. Why should one persons influence ruin this for so many?

Diane Scannell said...

In my humble opinion, I think it was a sad mistake for the producers to air this episode at all. Once Affleck made his demands, the episode should have been cancelled. Show the facts as they were found in research, or show nothing. In a pinch they could have re-run an earlier episode, but to yield to the demands of the "celebrity" does show a weakness in the organization. I hope the show can find a way to continue, but like so many, I would rather see stories about "common" people and their ancestors.

Joan said...

I've been sitting here this morning reading the genealogy news and came across this article. Let me just say at the onset that I've don't watch this show because I've never been particularly interested in celebrity gossip. It seems like too many people are making a big to-do over nothing concerning Mr. Affleck's ancestry. The ancestor was a slave owner. Well, what of it? My ancestor's were all hard working and ever harder drinking German nobodies. Well, what of it.

Mr. Affleck, I think, is within his rights to ask that his embarrassing ancestor not be made public, but to say it's "censorship" because it was not made public is just plain silly.

I would like to see a program where people were randomly chosen to have a show done on the ancestries of just plain-folk not that I think would be much more interesting.

AW said...

I'm a great admirer of Dr Gates. He wouldn't know me from Adam (probably because I'm an Eve!) but many years ago, when I was doing historic research for a client, his name popped up as a reference. So I actually emailed him, and received a reply which pointed me in the right direction. So Dr. Gates, I owe you one :)

I, too, find regular people far more interesting than celebrities...but I did watch, and enjoyed the show - mainly because it added to my knowledge of history and culture. I find it amazing that PBS CANCELLED the program -- because some toff ACTOR couldn't handle an unpleasant truth?

NEWS FLASH -- History is FULL of unpleasant truths!! THAT'S WHY IT'S IMPORTANT TO KNOW about our past...because if we IGNORE or FORGET all the unpleasant and ugly bits...THEY WILL BE REPEATED. Right? Don't believe me? Watch what's going on in the Middle East, then read a book about Nazi Germany. Oh...someone might want to give Mr. Affleck a book called "All Quiet on the Western Front"...but that's about a war of stupidity, World War One. I lost about a dozen ancestors at Gallipoli...there's a great film about this single horrific battle. You'da thunk we'd learn from stupid battles like THAT..but we haven't.

So shame on PBS, and I'll never watch another Ben Affleck movie again. WHAT A WIMP! The idea is to LEARN from the mistakes of the past, not sit there pouting and pretending you're ashamed and horrified.
We all were - that's why the practice was THIS country.

It still exists elsewhere, but I've never seen it covered on CNN or any news network. Maybe Anderson Cooper could fly down to Caracas, and shed some light on why Indians from the Amazon are selling newspapers, while standing in the MIDDLE of a high-speed highway? Or why young girls are selling fruit ON the streets. Ask them who collects their earnings....find out where they sleep at night. Hey! Maybe Anderson could bring Ben Affleck along! If they both survive (it's kind of dicey and dangerous investigating such things), and could change the situation, he could atone for the evil deeds of his ancestors!! Good Luck!, Ben! All will be forgiven!

Good thing I'm just an ordinary gal who likes her history neat..not all prettied up. Because if I was a celebrity featured on this ancestors actually signed the death warrant for Charles Stuart the First! Another one was implicated in the Gunpowder Plot! Then there's that Viking branch...I won't go there! Fortunately, the ancestors who emigrated to the American Colonies in 1634 were abolitionists, even the ones who later moved to the hinterlands and down South. They worked the land, worked the mines, worked the railroads...but they also fought against their own family during the Revolutionary War, and fought for the Union during the Civil War. Thank heavens enough survived to return to the home country, just in time to save Europe during WWI and II. God bless American soldiers everywhere...else we'd all be speaking German.

Hey, it's July 4th! It's my birthday...which is funny because I'm from England, but became a Yank so I could celebrate properly - the American way !!

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Juat to clarify, AW - the show has *not* been cancelled. It is on hold (suspended) for a bit.

Mary Pat said...

I don't know if this counts, but I am voting to keep the show just as it is

Thank You

AW said...

Yes, I realize it's been renewed - and I'm watching it weekly! When I made that post, many months ago, I was amazed that PBS, which hosts many terrific and insightful programs, seemed to be caving in, over a single actor's bruised ego. I'm delighted to see the show is back! Thank you PBS, and I think Dr. Gates is terrific!