Yesterday I gave Ben Affleck the PR Blunder of the day award for his attempt at covering up that one of his ancestors owned slaves (this was to appear in a PBS special). But now Affleck has apologized in a seemingly genuine and sincere manner and I give him the PR Play of the day award.
Yesterday, Affleck posted a detailed apology on his Facebook page. Here it is:
After an exhaustive search of my ancestry for “Finding Your Roots,” it was discovered that one of my distant relatives was an owner of slaves.
I didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves. I was embarrassed. The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth.
Skip decided what went into the show. I lobbied him the same way I lobby directors about what takes of mine I think they should use. This is the collaborative creative process. Skip agreed with me on the slave owner but made other choices I disagreed with. In the end, it’s his show and I knew that going in. I’m proud to be his friend and proud to have participated.
It’s important to remember that this isn’t a news program. Finding Your Roots is a show where you voluntarily provide a great deal of information about your family, making you quite vulnerable. The assumption is that they will never be dishonest but they will respect your willingness to participate and not look to include things you think would embarrass your family.
I regret my initial thoughts that the issue of slavery not be included in the story. 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. It is an examination well worth continuing. I am glad that my story, however indirectly, will contribute to that discussion. While I don’t like that the guy is an ancestor, I am happy that aspect of our country’s history is being talked about.
I think he covered all the bases and comes across as reasonable, likeable and believable. No, he won’t convince everyone. But I suspect that the only people who are left with a bad taste in their mouth about this event would be people who already hate Ben Affleck because of political candidates and issues he’s supported in the past, not really because of this issue.
By acting quickly, openly and apologetically on this issue, Affleck has deflated the negative consequences to his image and I believe has neutralized the issue so that it will have no lasting damage.
TJ Walker is president of Media Training Worldwide.