Friday, August 7, 2015

PBS and the Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Scandal

It looks as if PBS is in a forgiving mood.

The Columbian

'Finding Your Roots' to return for Season 3 after PBS investigation



"Finding Your Roots" will return for Season 3, but whether the celebrity genealogy series that buried an uncomfortable fact about Ben Affleck's ancestor continues after that remains in doubt, PBS' chief executive said.

PBS conducted a "very thorough investigation" and is working with the show's producers to ensure that its content is accurate, PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger told TV critics last week. The third season has yet to be scheduled.

The public TV service launched a review after it was reported that Affleck requested the program not reveal his ancestor's slave-holding history in a 2014 episode. The Associated Press examined historical documents and found that Affleck's great-great-great-grandfather owned 24 slaves.

Affleck's request came to light last spring in hacked Sony emails published online by whistleblower site WikiLeaks.

PBS' review found that co-producers violated standards by allowing improper influence on the show's editorial process and failed to inform PBS or then-producing station WNET New York of Affleck's efforts to affect the program's content. Changes were made, including adding another researcher and an independent genealogist.

Series host and executive producer Henry Louis Gates Jr. has issued an apology, saying he regretted forcing PBS to defend the integrity of its programming.

WETA in Washington, D.C., took over as the public TV producing station before the issue came to light, Kerger said.

In a Facebook posting in April, Affleck said he was "embarrassed" for a TV show about his family to include a slave owner. The award-winning "Good Will Hunting" and "Argo" actor and filmmaker added, among other comments.

"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," Affleck said in the post.


PBS, Gates regrets forcing PBS to defend the integrity of its programming! What a slimy way of not saying that Gates's behavior was shameful, what an evasion of integrity.

 Look, this was not an Affleck scandal. This was a Henry Louis Gates, Jr. scandal. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., wanted so desperately to have the "megastar" get him a membership in the ACADEMY that he flattered him by proclaiming that Affleck's mother (undoubtedly a fine liberal woman) was a Freedom Rider in Mississippi in 1964. She was not. Gates knew she was not, but Oh, how he wanted to cozy up to the magastar.

This sort of weakness of character does not change.

You turn him loose on FINDING YOUR ROOTS after knowing this and sit back to have a guest assured that his grandfather took the sword away from the redcoat who was hacking little Andrew Jackson or that  her grandmother in Munich hid Jews in her dining room all through 1942 and 1943.

The first thing a genealogist learns is not to guess. You don't even indulge in wishful thinking. You look at the evidence. In my experience as I gather evidence for ORNERY PEOPLE: WHAT WAS A DEPRESSION OKIE? I find masses of documentation where I assumed there would have been none, except perhaps a census now and then. I find appalling stories of an uncle who early in the 1700s got paid extra for quartering a murderer and displaying the parts in various locations. I find an uncle who hit his young slave with a cane a few years before the Revolution and was examined about it and was cleared because it was his property. I find a member of a Committee of Safety, many signers of the so-called Tryon Resolves, a band plus scattered individuals on the right side at King's Mountain. But I can't WISH that my Knoxes are the same as the Steele Creek Knoxes, although they may be. I can't even WISH Cyrus Parks into being an ancestor, even though that would mean being kin to some heroic Pennsylvania Beatties. You go with the evidence, and you don't delude yourself. And you don't lie to others.

Fronting FINDING YOUR ROOTS should not be the job of a suck-up Master of Ceremonies.
The Wiki-Leaks revealed a lack of character that should not be forgotten. No one who takes genealogy seriously will pay attention to Skip Gates again.

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