Tom Hanks has apologised after he was filmed making jokes at a charity auction alongside a man with a blacked-up face carrying a stuffed gorilla.
The Oscar-winning actor was onstage with former Eagles rock star Glenn Frey at their children’s school when they were joined by another parent sporting a leopard print costume, a blackened face and an afro wig.
Hanks yesterday apologised over the “hideously offensive” scene, claiming he was “blindsided” during the incident, which was captured on video by a shocked guest at the event.
The two-minute clip shows Hanks hosting the castaway-themed auction in a room decorated to look like a jungle at the £18,000-a-year St Matthew’s Parish School in Pacific Palisades, California.
As the blacked-up man takes the stage, Hanks quips that the Right-wing US commentator Bill O’Reilly, who has himself often been accused of racial insensitivity, has arrived.
“A celebrity in our midst – who would have thought Bill O’Reilly would join us?” says the actor.
Co-host Frey jokes: “This is as close to diversity as we’ll get at St Matthew’s.”
Frey identifies the blacked-up man as investment banker James Montgomery, saying: “Just back from a Jerry Falwell sensitivity training seminar.
“All I know is, this school is so conservative that Jamie Montgomery was almost not allowed in. They stuck him in the parking lot — they let him in. These are the jokes, people.
“Remember, Jamie Montgomery — he handled the Idi Amin account back in the ’80s, which was good.”
The footage, shot in March 2004, was given to U.S. website The Daily Callerby a woman who filmed the event and accused Hanks of hypocrisy.
The woman said: “Tom would be the first to scream ‘racist’ if a conservative put their arm around a Wall Street banker in black face while their co-MC made racist remarks.”
Responding to the controversy, Hanks told Hollywood news website The Wrap: “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.”
Hanks, who starred in the 2000 Hollywood film Castaway, recently narrated a 17-minute campaign video calling for President Barack Obama’s re-election.
In response to the auction video, Niger Innis, of the Congress of Racial Equality, said: “I call upon President Obama, who has Tom Hanks doing the narration to his campaign video, to cease, to remove Mr Hanks’ voice-over from his video, and end any association or affiliation with Mr Hanks,”
“It is gross, it’s coarse, and it is shocking that something like this would be done in California. Not Mississippi — in California.”
While liberals complain about "dog whistle racism" on the part of conservatives, which only they can hear, Tom Hanks hosts a minstrel show in the middle of that bastion of progressive thought, Los Angeles. The spirit of that great progressive and bigot, Woodrow Wilson, lives on.