On June 13, NPR published an op-ed written by TV and film critic Eric Deggans in response to Tom Hanks’ recent guest essay for The New York Times about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Right-wing media quickly pounced on Deggans’ piece, using it to fearmonger about “cancel culture” and other manufactured conservative grievances.
Deggans begins his piece with high praise for Hanks as an actor, and the praise continues throughout the remainder of the article. The point of Deggans' well-written article, framed around Hanks’ recent op-ed for the Times, is more about how Hollywood, as an industry, too often raises the perspectives of white Americans to the exclusion of Black perspectives -- and not about Hanks personally.
Deggans admires how Hanks “stepped forward to advocate for teaching about a race-based massacre.” He specifically states that Hanks is not a racist and that he is also an advocate for gay rights and environmentalism. Deggans’ professional criticism of Hanks revolves purely in the context of how Hollywood filmmakers, generally, “have made fortunes amplifying ideas of white American exceptionalism and heroism” at the expense of Black Americans. Instead, his piece is a call for Hanks to change this trend.
Conservative media, however, is wholly bereft of nuance and argumentative generosity. Using Deggans’ piece as another lightning rod in their obsession over so-called “cancel culture,” figures throughout right-wing media began claiming that Tom Hanks had been “cancelled.”
Fox News ran multiple segments on June 14 claiming that Tom Hanks had been “cancelled.” During Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade warned that “cancel culture [is] coming for one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars.” Fox headlines reporter Carley Shimkus added, “I think this is where the left loses a lot of people because nothing is ever good enough.”
During America’s Newsroom, Fox contributor Joe Concha decried “perpetual protesters” and erroneously said Deggans was “playing the victim” after he responded to criticism on Twitter. Anchor Martha MacCallum implored Hanks to respond and defend his career.
Newsmax ran a segment claiming that Tom Hanks had been “cancelled,” with co-host Shaun Kraisman saying that “they continue to eat their own.” Co-host Emma Rechenberg compared the film star to “people who've spoken out, perhaps on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement, and then something from their past has come up they've been cancelled by a group as well.”
Newsmax later ran a segment in which a guest falsely claimed Deggans wanted Tom Hanks to stop producing films completely, while host John Bachman suggested that “being anti-racist” means “to be racist against white people, effectively.”
In addition to the hyperventilating on cable news, conservative figures on social media and podcasts extended the outrage. The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro tweeted: “Tom Hanks fed the alligator, and now it will eat him.”
During his Daily Wire podcast, host Matt Walsh says Deggans “simply hates white people and can’t contain it.”
Fox News anchor John Roberts said that Hanks is the victim of “woke attacks.”
Like so many other non-troversies, Hanks’ alleged cancellation is yet another example of how conservative media thrives on injecting fake outrage into the bloodstream of their consumers.