A Late, but Welcomed (by PBS), Apology

Posted by Michael Getler on

Here’s the latest development in the continuing saga of super-star actor Ben Affleck, aka “Batman” in some WikiLeaked cables, super-star Harvard professor (and host of the popular “Finding Your Roots” series on PBS) Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a slave-owning ancestor of Affleck’s, Sony Pictures Chief Michael Lynton, PBS member-station WNET in New York, and PBS.

Just a short time ago, two top PBS officials – Beth Hoppe, chief of programming, and Anne Bentley, vice president for corporate communications – posted the following statement to PBS station managers on PBS.org. The headline is in the second paragraph, which is an apology from Gates and Executive Producer Dyllan McGee. The apology is a little late, it seems to me, coming after what seem like scores of articles in the media, not to mention two previous ombudsman columns, but it does add an important element to this still unfolding story.

It is hard to tell at this point how widely the Gates statement was distributed so we are posting it here for loyal readers of this column.

Here’s the Memo to Station Managers with the Gates Apology

As we noted in our previous emails, PBS is committed to keeping you informed regarding FINDING YOUR ROOTS episode “Roots of Freedom.” Last evening [April 22], Professor Gates and series executive producer Dyllan McGee issued a statement to the media, which included an apology to PBS and PBS stations:

"During our many years of producing genealogy programs on PBS, we have always tried to function under the most rigorous scholarly and production values. We regret not sharing Mr. Affleck’s request that we avoid mention of one of his ancestors with our co-production partner, WNET, and our broadcast partner, PBS. We apologize for putting PBS and its member stations in the position of having to defend the integrity of their programming. Moving forward, we are committed to an increased level of transparency with our co-producing partners. We respect PBS guidelines and understand our obligation to maintain editorial integrity at all times.”
- Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Executive Producer & Dyllan McGee, Executive Producer

For our part, PBS and WNET are continuing the internal review, which began last Saturday. It is in everyone’s interest that we move quickly to bring the internal review to completion, but we also want to ensure that we are being thorough. We will share the findings of the review as soon as it is concluded.

Beth Hoppe, Anne Bentley

Gawker Publishes Transcript

In one more development, the website Gawker, late last night, published the transcript of the portions of the interview with Affleck about his ancestor that got excised from the original script, which is what this tale is all about.

Posted on April 23, 2015 at 12:31 p.m.

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As ombudsman, Michael Getler serves as an independent internal critic within PBS. He reviews commentary and criticism from viewers and seeks to ensure that PBS upholds its own standards of editorial integrity. Read More >
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