Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson and a QAnon conspiracy theory

A small tumble outside a New York restaurant has reignited a groundless conspiracy theory that Tom Hanks is dead.

The BBC noted that the Hollywood actor angrily told fans to “back off” after his wife, Rita Wilson, tripped while surrounded by selfie-seekers as they left the restaurant. A video of the incident, complete with expletives, can be watched on YouTube.

With tongue firmly in cheek, the UK-based celebrity and pop music newsletter Popbitch remarked that perhaps this means “QAnon are on to something”, referring to an outlandish conspiracy theory disseminated by the right-wing internet movement.

QAnon activists subscribe to a belief that Hanks has been replaced by a body double because the real actor was arrested for child abuse and sent to Guantanamo Bay, or “possibly executed by the military”.

Wild belief stems from 2021 article

The far-fetched notion stems from a 2021 article published by – described by the fact-checking site Poynter as a “new website that regularly publishes fantastical, false stories” – which claimed that: “Actor Tom Hanks has left the earth, put to death by a military tribunal that found him guilty of paedophilia and child endangerment.”

The article added that last June, the US military “apprehended Hanks after a plane he had chartered in Greece, where he held dual citizenship, landed at Malpensa Airport in Milan, Italy, where Hanks had been scheduled to attend a foreign film festival”.

The Cast Away actor has been photographed in public several times since his alleged execution.

Reuters said that the article article appeared to allude to the QAnon conspiracy theory that there is a “cabal of child-sex predators” that includes prominent Democrats, Hollywood elites and “deep state” allies. 

QAnon activists ‘obsessed’ with Hanks

SFGate, a news site for the San Francisco Bay Area, said QAnon believers have become “obsessed” with Hanks since the article was published. They have falsely claimed he exploited children and was a passenger aboard sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein’s infamous “Lolita Express”, the plane route Epstein used to take friends to his private island. There is no evidence for any of these claims and Hank does not appear on the flight logs.

SFGate added that Hanks became a “particularly popular target” for conspiracy theories after he went into quarantine in the early months of the Covid pandemic. QAnon activists “frantically speculated that Hanks had actually been arrested on charges of paedophilia” and was executed by lethal injection, said the site.

Actor targeted ‘for being blameless’

The Los Angeles Times said Hanks has been targeted by the movement because he is “an anodyne delight to all [and] virtually impossible to dislike”. To qualify for villainy among the QAnon crowd, the newspaper added, it’s “best to be blameless… like Hanks, almost to the point of caricature”.

In an interview with The New York Times published on 15 June, Hanks alluded to the saga and the political context it emerged from. “The problem, of course, is that technology has shifted so that truth has no currency,” he said.

“That is only going to be altered when enough people say, ‘[Expletive] that, I’m not going to pay any attention to social media ever again’.”

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