Did actor Tom Hanks pass away after confessing his admiration for President Trump? No, that's not true: The story is a hoax from a satirical website that features "death hoaxes for your thoughts and prayers."
The claim originated in an article published by Conservative Tears on March 22, 2020, titled "Tom Hanks, 65, Passes Away, Confessed Admiration for Trump at the End" (archived here). It opened:
Prolific acting legend, Tom Hanks, passed away suddenly this morning. The cause of his death has not been released.
Hanks enjoyed a long and successful career. He was well-liked by all those in the Hollywood community and his movies were always well received by the public, even the really crappy ones like "Castaway." His body of work will live on for decades to come.
Users on social media only saw this:
Tom Hanks, 65, Passes Away, Confessed Admiration for Trump at the End
The world has lost an iconic acting legend.
The story is entirely made up. Hanks did not pass away, and he and his wife Rita Wilson are recovering from the novel coronavirus. On March 11, 2020, the couple announced on Instagram that they had tested positive for the virus. (The hoax story never referenced this fact.)
On March 18, 2020, the actor gave a health update on social media:
View this post on Instagram
Hey folks. Good News: One week after testing Positive, in self-isolation, the symptoms are much the same. No fever but the blahs. Folding the laundry and doing the dishes leads to a nap on the couch. Bad news: My wife @ritawilson has won 6 straight hands of Gin Rummy and leads by 201 points. But I have learned not to spread my Vegemite so thick. I travelled here with a typewriter, one I used to love. We are all in this together. Flatten the curve. Hanx
The Conservative Tears site also got Hanks' age wrong. He is 63, not 65.
The site is part of the "America's Last Line of Defense" network of satire websites run by self-professed liberal troll Christopher Blair from Maine.
Blair has been in a feud with fact checking website Snopes and has also criticized other fact checkers who have labeled his work "fake news" instead of satire. In reaction, he has recently rebranded all of his active websites and Facebook pages so they carry prominent disclaimers everywhere.
Every site in the network has an about page that reads (in part):
Before you complain and decide satire is synonymous with "comedy":
The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
Everything on this website is fiction. It is not a lie and it is not fake news because it is not real. If you believe that it is real, you should have your head examined. Any similarities between this site's pure fantasy and actual people, places, and events are purely coincidental and all images should be considered altered and satirical. See above if you're still having an issue with that satire thing.
Articles from Blair's sites frequently get copied by other fake news sites that often omit the satire disclaimer and any additional hints the stories are false. Blair has tried to get these sites shut down, but new ones keep cropping up.
Here is a video of Blair explaining how his process works:
If you are interested in learning more about Blair and the history of his sites, here is something to get you started:
The Ultimate Christopher Blair and America's Last Line of Defense Reading List | Lead Stories
STORY UPDATED: check for updates below. Yesterday Eli Saslow at the Washington Post wrote a fantastic article about Christopher Blair, a man from Maine who has been trolling conservatives and Trump supporters online for years and occasionally even made a living out of it.
If you see one of his stories on a site that does not contain a satire disclaimer, assume it is fake news. If you do see the satire disclaimer, it is, of course, also fake news.
NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalists to rank the reliability of websites, describes conservativetears.com as:
A hoax website that publishes false stories about celebrity deaths.
According to NewsGuard, the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.
We wrote about Conservative Tears before. Here are our most recent articles that mention the site:
- Fact Check: Duck Dynasty's Si Robertson NOT Found Dead
- Fake News: Conservative Dinesh D'Souza NOT Dead At 58
- Fake News: 'Bionic Man' Lee Majors NOT Dead At 83; $6 Million NOT Left To Trump 2020
- Fake News: Actor Gary Sinise NOT Dead At 67
- Fake News: Sam Elliott, NOT Famous for Mocking Liberals, Is NOT Dead at 83