Though Barack Obama is not yet in full-tilt campaign mode, the President’s aspiring Republican opponents have been on the attack throughout their primary season. There’s even an effort to ding Obama through an unlikely intermediary: Tom Hanks. In response to Hanks’ involvement in an Obama campaign video called “The Road We’ve Traveled,” conservative civil rights group the Congress of Racial Equality sent Tucker Carlson’s website The Daily Caller a video of Hanks emceeing a 2004 school fundraiser where a fellow parent donned blackface.
The two-time Oscar winner was, by his own admission, “blindsided” by the bit, in which James Montgomery wore a leopard-print outfit and an Afro wig, and carried a stuffed gorilla, among other stereotypical garb. Hanks explained the situation with this statement: “For many years I emceed the annual fundraising auction for my kids’ school. In 2004, I was blindsided when one of the parents got up on the stage in a costume that was hideously offensive then and is hideously offensive now. What is usually a night of food and drink for a good cause was, regrettably, marred by an appalling few moments.”
Though Hanks swiftly condemned the costume as “hideously offensive then and… hideously offensive now,” CORE Spokesperson Niger Innis deemed the skit “heinous” and “racist,” and demanded Obama dissociate himself from Hanks. See the video and weigh the possible consequences for Hanks below.
Hanks, who has actively endorsed Obama since 2008, genuinely appears to be taken aback in the video. He powered through the auction-related lines from script, seemingly trying to deflect from the gags of cohost and Eagles founding member Glenn Frey.
Frey, whose politics have been less public than Hanks’, ran down a list of references (Idi Amin, baskbetball, allusions to segregation) that were ostensibly more in line with the regrettable blackface act. He joked, “This is as close as we’ll get to diversity at St. Matthew’s,” then said that Montgomery was “just back from a Jerry Falwell sensitivity training seminar.” EW could not reach Frey’s spokesperson at time of press.
As for Montgomery, he told TheWrap, “Each of us does and says things at one point or another in our lives we regret…. While I can understand that some people may have read something other than what was intended into my wearing that costume to a costume party, as anyone who knows me would attest, that is not consistent with my beliefs nor is it with who I am.”
Back to Hanks, who seems to be observing the old actor’s trope that the show must go on. Where do you stand, PopWatchers? Is it fair to discredit Hanks for an incident he apparently had no hand in planning? Does this entanglement compromise Hanks’ association with Obama in any way?