An online video accurately reports that entertainment icon Oprah Winfrey revealed that Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks, who owns property on Maui, played a “dark role” in the August 2023 wildfires on the island.
Hanks owns no property on Maui. Winfrey revealed nothing of the sort.
On August 25, 2023, the celebrity gossip YouTube channel known as Just In (@JustInCeleb) published a video (archived) titled: “Tom Hanks PANICS As Oprah Reveals His SHADY Role In Maui Fires.”
The video featured a narrator’s voice generated by artificial intelligence (AI) tools.
The clip contained a thumbnail image that was misleading clickbait. It featured entertainment icon Oprah Winfrey with devilish horns on her head. Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks was also depicted in strange artwork and the image was quoted as saying of Winfrey, “[She’s] trying to frame me.”
On the same day Just In published the video, the Facebook page known as American Gossip reposted the clip with their own graphic branding. The repost has since been viewed more than 1 million times.
Six days later, YouTuber Da Real Adogg posted a full reaction video (archived) of the original Just In clip, further promoting the completely baseless rumors about Hanks and Winfrey.
The clip was also reposted on Telegram, bestnewshere.com, beforeitsnews.com, sgtreport.com, bitchute.com (three times), Truth Social (too many times), and in three parts on TikTok.
In other words, the video went viral.
The main allegations in the video were that Hanks owned property on Maui in Hawaii and that Winfrey had revealed that he played some sort of “dark role” in the August 2023 island fires, the deadliest U.S. wildfires in more than a century.
But here’s the truth: Winfrey has properties on Maui, but Hanks doesn’t. In addition, Winfrey never made any allegations that Hanks had criminal involvement in the fires, nor did he say she was trying to “herald” him.
Furthermore, the video never even presents evidence to support the central claims in the title, something the commenters under the video apparently haven’t bothered to consider.
A small disclaimer was shown on screen several times as the video presented multiple evidence-free conspiracy theories about the fires. A longer version of the same disclaimer was also buried at the bottom of the video description.
“The content may consist of gossip, rumor, exaggeration or indirect in addition to the truth,” the full disclaimer reads. “Advise viewers to do their own research before forming their own opinion. The content can be stubborn.”
In other words, the people who made the video, whose location was listed as Indonesia by Facebook, were aware that their content might contain information that might not be true, but published it anyway. The goal was apparently to trick American viewers and/or earn ad revenue on YouTube.
In related matters also mentioned by the video’s AI-voiced narrator, we previously reported on the unfounded rumor claiming a “direct energy weapon” might have started the Maui wildfires. Also, The Associated Press and PolitiFact both reported as “false” the strange rumor claiming that homes and businesses painted blue were spared from the fires.
Aside from the rumors of the Maui fires, Hanks and Winfrey have been featured in conspiracy theories for years claiming that they and other Hollywood celebrities were secretly involved in “elite pedophile sex trafficking rings.” Also, as we reported, these claims were about as baseless and outlandish as rumors can get.
Chen, Joyce. “A Look Inside Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson’s Real Estate Portfolio, Including His Legendary Airstream.” Architectural summaryMar 2, 2023, https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/tom-hanks-rita-wilson-real-estate-portfolio.
Emery, David. “Were the 2023 Maui fires caused by a ‘direct energy weapon’?” Candy11 August 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/maui-wildfires-caused-by-direct-energy-weapon/.
Liles, Jordan. “Biden Did Not Fall Asleep During Meeting With Maui Fire Victims, C-SPAN Video Confirms.” CandyAugust 22, 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/biden-asleep-maui-video/.
McAvoy, Audrey, et al. “Hawaii officials urge families of people missing after deadly fires to provide DNA samples.” The Associated Press22 August 2023, https://apnews.com/article/maui-fire-missing-list-lahaina-e6909a2be7860fc7f9062c886a15f979.
Mikkelson, David. “Has Tom Hanks been arrested in Australia and fitted with an ankle bracelet?” Candy28 July 2020, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/tom-hanks-ankle-bracelet/.
O’Rourke, Ciara. “True Blue? No. The story about celebrity paint preferences is bogus.” PolitiFact25 Aug 2023, https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/25/viral-image/true-blue-no-story-about-celebs-paint-preferences/.
Phan, Karena. “Videos on social media are fueling an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that blue objects were spared from the Maui wildfires.” The Associated Press30 August 2023, https://apnews.com/article/fact-check-conspiracy-blue-items-maui-wildfires-118319149774.