An internal PBS investigation determined Wednesday that producers on Finding Your Roots allowed Ben Affleck to influence their content decisions—in particular, the decision to cut a segment on the actor’s great-great-great grandfather, who owned slaves.
Despite initially shooting the segment—and later putting in writing, “Here’s my dilemma: confidentially, for the first time, one of our guests has asked us to edit out something about one of his ancestors—the fact that he owned slaves... We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found. He’s a megastar. What do we do,”—Gates claimed the segment was removed because it wasn’t “interesting” enough.
Yeaaah. Turns out PBS didn’t fall for that, either.
PBS said Wednesday that it, along with New York station WNET, “determined that the series co-producers violated PBS standards by failing to shield the creative and editorial process from improper influence, and by failing to inform PBS or WNET of Mr. Affleck’s efforts to affect program content.”
Now PBS is reportedly pulling all distribution of Affleck’s episode and laying down stricter edicts for the show. According to Variety, they’ve delayed the third season until they can hire new fact checkers and an independent genealogist. And the network is reportedly threatening not to produce a fourth season “until we are satisfied that the editorial standards of the series have been successfully raised to a level in which we can have confidence.”
Gates apologized for kowtowing to Affleck in a statement Wednesday, writing “I sincerely regret not discussing my editing rationale with our partners at PBS and WNET, and I apologize for putting PBS and its member stations in the position of having to defend the integrity of their programming.”