Fact Check

Tom Hanks 'Panics' as Oprah Winfrey Reveals His 'Shady Role' in Maui Fires?

The Just In YouTube channel claimed in a video that actor Tom Hanks owned land on Maui and was involved in starting the August 2023 Maui wildfires.

Published Sep 1, 2023

Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey attend the Ambassadors For Humanity Gala Benefiting USC Shoah Foundation Honoring Rita Wilson And Tom Hanks at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Nov. 5, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Michael Kovac / Contributor via Getty Images) (Michael Kovac / Contributor via Getty Images)
Image Via Michael Kovac / Contributor via Getty Images
Claim:
An online video accurately reports that entertainment icon Oprah Winfrey revealed that Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks, who owns property on Maui, had a "shady role" in the island's August 2023 wildfires.
Context

Hanks does not own property on Maui. Winfrey revealed nothing of the sort.

On Aug. 25, 2023, the celebrity gossip news 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 included a narrator's voice that was generated by artificial-intelligence (AI) tools.

The clip featured a thumbnail image that was misleading clickbait. It showed entertainment icon Oprah Winfrey with devil-like horns on top of her head. Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks was also depicted in odd artwork and was quoted in the image as supposedly having said of Winfrey, "[She's] trying to frame me."

On the same day that Just In published the video, the Facebook page known as American Gossip reposted the clip with their own graphical 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 Just In's original clip, further promoting the completely baseless rumors about Hanks and Winfrey.

The clip was also reposted on Telegram, bestnewshere.com, beforeitsnews.comsgtreport.combitchute.com (three times), Truth Social (too many times), and in three parts on TikTok.

In other words, the video was very, very viral.

The video's main allegations were that Hanks owned property on Maui in Hawaii and that Winfrey had revealed he had some sort of "shady role" in the August 2023 fires on the island, which were the deadliest U.S. wildfires in more than a century.

However, here's the truth: While Winfrey does have property on Maui, Hanks does not. Also, Winfrey never alleged anything about Hanks having criminal involvement in the fires, nor did he say she was trying to "frame" him.

Further, the video never even presents evidence to back up the central claims made in its title, something that the commenters under the video apparently didn't bother to think through.

A small disclaimer was displayed on screen multiple 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's description.

"Content might be gossip, rumors, exaggerated or indirectly besides the truth," the full disclaimer read. "Viewer advised to do own research before forming their opinion. Content might be opinionated."

In other words, the people who created the video, whose location was listed by Facebook as Indonesia, were aware that their content may have contained information that might not be true, but still published it anyway. The goal was apparently to mislead American viewers and/or earn YouTube advertising revenue.

In related matters that also were mentioned by the video's AI-voiced narrator, we previously reported on the unfounded rumor that claimed a "direct energy weapon" caused the Maui wildfires. Also, The Associated Press and PolitiFact both reported as "false" the odd rumor that claimed homes and businesses that were painted the color blue were spared in the fires.

Aside from the rumors about the Maui fires, Hanks and Winfrey have for years been mentioned in conspiracy theories that claim they and other Hollywood celebrities were secretly involved in "elite pedophile sex trafficking rings." As we reported, these claims were also about as baseless and bizarre as rumors get.

Sources

Chen, Joyce. "Inside Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson's Real Estate Portfolio—Including His Legendary Airstream." Architectural Digest, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/tom-hanks-rita-wilson-real-estate-portfolio.

Emery, David. "Were 2023 Maui Fires Caused by a 'Direct Energy Weapon'?" Snopes, 11 Aug. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/maui-wildfires-caused-by-direct-energy-weapon/.

Liles, Jordan. "Biden Did Not Fall Asleep While Meeting with Maui Fire Victims, C-SPAN Video Confirms." Snopes, 22 Aug. 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 Give DNA Samples." The Associated Press, 22 Aug. 2023, https://apnews.com/article/maui-fire-missing-list-lahaina-e6909a2be7860fc7f9062c886a15f979.

Mikkelson, David. "Was Tom Hanks Arrested in Australia and Fitted with an Ankle Bracelet?" Snopes, 28 July 2020, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/tom-hanks-ankle-bracelet/.

O'Rourke, Ciara. "True Blue? No. Story about Celebs' Paint Preferences Is Fake." PolitiFact, 25 Aug. 2023, https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/aug/25/viral-image/true-blue-no-story-about-celebs-paint-preferences/.

Phan, Karena. "Social Media Videos Push Baseless Conspiracy Theory That Blue Items Were Spared from Maui Wildfires." The Associated Press, 30 Aug. 2023, https://apnews.com/article/fact-check-conspiracy-blue-items-maui-wildfires-118319149774.

Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.