No, Tom Hanks has not been “cancelled”

Conservative media once again can't deal with constructive criticism


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.”

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Citation From the June 14, 2021, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends

BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): All right, this is confusing, I'll grant you that. Cancel culture coming for one of Hollywood's most beloved stars, Tom Hanks. The A-lister and start of Bosom Buddies is under fire after penning an op-ed, get this, urging schools to teach schools about the Tulsa Race Massacre. You confused? Me too. But that's not good enough for one NPR writer calling on Hanks to be an anti-racist, arguing he's built a career playing righteous white men, but the stories leave out Black contributions. And this morning, that writer doubling down. Here to try to make sense of it all, Carley Shimkus. Carley?

CARLEY SHIMKUS (FOX NEWS REPORTER): Yeah, I'm going to try my darnedest. If this is breaking your brain right now, it's understandable. So, this all started when Tom Hanks wrote an op-ed in The New York Times calling for more teaching of the Tulsa Race Massacre. It's an article that you wouldn't think would receive criticism from the left because Tom Hanks says that our history has been whitewashed and he's calling for an accurate accounting of our history, even the bad parts. But an NPR writer named Eric Deggans says that that article didn't go far enough. He's calling for Tom Hanks to not just be non-racist but anti-racist. And the difference is that anti-racism implies action and activism. So, after this article went live, he received criticism and now this Eric Deggans is doubling down on Twitter defending his stance. He says, “The insults and bullying are already piling up in my Twitter timeline. But I'm proud of my column today on Tom Hanks' op-ed about teaching the Tulsa Race Massacre; I'm a fan but what he said is not enough. It's time for Tom Hanks to be anti-racist." I think this is where the left loses a lot of people because nothing is ever good enough. Brian.

KILMEADE: And believe me, when you're on Tom Hanks you're on hallowed ground.

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.

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Citation From the June 14, 2021, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom

JOE CONCHA (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Boy, Tom Hanks has some audacity building his iconic career out of playing -- get this, Bill -- a white guy. And now NPR, your taxpayer dollars at work, now condemns him literally after writing an op-ed urging for more focus in the history curriculums in schools across America on the Tulsa massacre. And the writer of this piece -- Eric Deggans, you mentioned before -- he's now playing the victim on social media. He's complaining about being bullied and insulted because he wrote this piece because it is so profoundly stupid. He deserves all the criticism that he gets. And here's is the thing though, Bill, for NPR, and Deggans, and perpetual protesters, no matter what Tom Hanks does, it will never be enough. He supports more than three dozen charities, Hanks does -- from helping honoring military vets -- he's famously done that, also in movies with Band of Brothers -- but also women's empowerment, or children's health care in fighting cancer and diabetes. But no, for one guy from NPR, he isn't doing enough to make the world a better place. How's that working out right now? 

BILL HEMMER (ANCHOR): Well, if he was looking for attention, he's getting it. Apparently he's proud of what he wrote. He did an interview and and said he stands by it. But being white in America has its --

CONCHA: How do you finish this sentence, Bill?

HEMMER: Has, apparently, a lot of pitfalls. 


MARTHA MACCALLUM (ANCHOR): Oh, my gosh. You remember that math teacher from the Midwest that Tom Hanks played? It was such a righteous white guy, that he was a hero in World War II. Or the guy who was a man in the body of a little kid who made toys? It was horrible, horrible, horrible stuff he's done -- I hope he comes out swinging. I hope he goes line by line -- somebody has to, eventually, right? Somebody has to. I hope he comes out and says, you know what, this is what my career's been about. These are the people that I've played. I'm proud of my career. Like, don't let it go. Respond. 

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.”

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Citation From the June 14, 2021, edition of Newsmax's National Report

SHAUN KRAISMAN (CO-HOST): Alright, meanwhile this: Could America's favorite actor be the latest victim of cancel culture?

EMMA RECHENBERG (CO-HOST): Alright, that is what's trending right now. 

KRAISMAN: Oscar winner Tom Hanks has been called out by one opinion writer after his recent guest essay for The New York Times, calling for more widespread teaching about the Tulsa Race Massacre. According to an NPR op-ed, the title reads that, quote, “Tom Hanks is a non-racist. It's time for him to be an anti-racist," but also begins with a disclaimer that he admires Hanks as an actor and considers him to be, quote, “a stand-up guy."

RECHENBERG: Well, the author gets to his point, arguing that Hanks did not do a thorough enough analysis with the essay writing, quote, “These are wise words. And it's wonderful that Hanks stepped forward to advocate for teaching about a race-based massacre -- indirectly pushing back against all the hyperventilating about critical race theory that's too often more about silencing such lessons on America's darkest chapters. But it is not enough." The writer also goes on to express that Hanks built a career on playing righteous white men.

KRAISMAN: Yeah, it's just going through some of the trending words on Tom Hanks and that one was talking about about how he built his empire on these movies that lift up white voices, et cetera, et cetera, it goes on and on and on. But there was a quote that says, “The cancel monsters will find that no one is pure enough, and no one can change. They'll burn everyone and everything down." End quote. And you continue to see that they continue to eat their own.

RECHENBERG: Yeah. How many times have we pointed it out, quite frankly, where we've had 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. Obviously, you know, there's a difference between accountability and cancel culture, as well. And I think it's just interesting to watch the very thin line.

KRAISMAN: It makes you wonder -- should you even write your your opinion piece if you can be cancelled out like that? Tom Hanks, loved by most everyone who watches his films.

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.”

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Citation From the June 14, 2021, edition of Newsmax's John Bachman Now

JOHN BACHMAN (HOST): Robby, this is what we talk about all the time. No matter what you do, it's never quite enough for the woke mob, is it? 

ROBBY SOAVE (REASON MAGAZINE SENIOR EDITOR): That's right. It's not enough to be non-racist, you must be anti-racist. That's what they say. And what they mean by that varies from situation to situation, but it seems like this person doesn't want Tom Hanks to produce films at all. I guess he's supposed to get out of the way. You can't portray a white person in a positive light at all, to do so is bad. I mean, I think Tom Hanks is a great actor and he seems like a pretty upstanding person and he wrote an interesting op-ed on a subject -- I agree that the Tulsa massacre should be more widely taught. But that's not enough, is it? It's never enough. These people, the progressive activist left, always have to be upset about something. So if you tell them you're right, we agree with you. We should try harder on X, Y, or Z, it's not enough. They just find something else. They just get even more angry and even more insane

BACHMAN: And, Vivek, when you look at Eric Deggans, he's a media critic who's, kind of, transitioned into this woke kind of whatever genre that he's in now, and this is more proof to me of why these media critics are some of the worst people in media.


BACHMAN: And that's the question you have to ask somebody when you have this discussion about what is anti-racism, you know, if you're not racist, but you're not an anti-racist. I mean, being anti-racist, Robby, requires you, what Vivek is saying, to be racist against white people, effectively.

SOAVE: In effect it does in some cases. When we talk about school curriculum, what they're often asking is for -- you know, non-racism would be that we should treat everyone equally, and some of this anti-racism stuff seems to be saying there are different traits or categories among different races, and those should be like fostered and, you know, we have -- there are certain aspects we should identify with whiteness. You hear about that from, sort of, academic thinking on the matter, and I'm against that. That's ridiculous. There are not not innate traits associated with whiteness or being white. I don't want to teach kids that there are because it's not true, and it might turn them racist. It's a bad idea. It's a bad approach. And yet it's the approach that so many of these scholars, the activists around racial issues, now preach. I also will add that, you know, the Tulsa massacre -- I do think more people should learn about it. It was majorly spotlighted by an HBO show last year, Watchmen, which was a huge, critically acclaimed show that was all about the Tulsa massacre. So we actually are starting to talk about that horrible historical event in a much broader context already

BACHMAN: And I will admit that was really the first time I ever heard much about. I think I heard a little bit about it, but that was the first time -- you know, I actually went on to Google to find out more about the Tulsa massacre, Robby, was from watching Watchman on HBO, full disclosure. But you know, this stuff has been spotlighted more recently. But again, you know, the bottom line here is it's never enough for some of these folks.

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.”

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Citation From the June 14, 2021, edition of The Daily Wire's The Matt Walsh Show

MATT WALSH (HOST): The point is that Tom Hanks is a white celebrity who wrote an op-ed to discuss the evil of racism and the alleged whitewashing of history and so on. If you haven't been paying attention, you might think that this would please the left-wing race activists. They'd be happy about it. That they'd say, oh, thanks Tom Hanks for supporting us.

But because you haven't been paying attention, you don't realize that their whole game is to not ever be pleased with anything. And that's what gives rise to this article in NPR by a guy named Eric Deggans. Eric gives Hanks a nice pat on the head and a sticker for his effort, but then he explains that he's still very disappointed. 


Tom Hanks could've ran through the streets weeping and whipping himself and screaming I'm sorry, I'm sorry and it still would not have been enough. But in this case, Tom Hanks had the audacity to not apologize at all. And Eric Deggans is quite upset about that. 


White people are villains, Eric Deggans believes, and that is their rightful role in any film.


Yes, we wouldn't want to cement the idea that white people do good things. That's very dangerous, you know. It's dangerous to give people the impression that white people are capable of positive actions. The safest and best thing is to place an entire race of people in the villain role and keep them there. Because as we've seen through history, that always works out well. Right? All of this, of course, is racist nonsense. This is a man who simply hates white people and can't contain it. And fortunately for him, he doesn't have to contain it. We could only imagine the reaction to an editorial arguing that there shouldn't be movies that amplify ideas of Black heroism. Can you imagine that? An editorial about, I don't know, Black Panther where it's a white writer saying you know, this movie's a little problematic because it kind of gives this idea of Black heroism and I'm unsure about that I think. Can you imagine that? You can't imagine it. Or rather, you could only imagine it because such an editorial could never actually be published. And even if it could, there isn't anyone who's interested in writing it. 

But that doesn't satisfy Eric Deggans. Nothing ever can or will. It's not enough for Tom Hanks to denounce racism. He needs to actively demonize white people in his films. Eric has given Hanks his marching orders. His next movie must be a story about a wealthy white Republican oil executive discriminating against a bisexual Native American climate activist. And then, in the end, he has to be thrown down an oil well and as he's falling he has to shout I'm white and evil and I'm sorry. Just to make sure the point was clear. Anything less than that, and Hanks will be part of the problem. And the problem for Deggans is that there isn't enough anti-white sentiment out there. And there never will be. Because that's how it's all set up.

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.