Tom Hanks has vehemently refuted suggestions that he is a racist and should be removed from a campaign video aimed at assisting President Obama's re-election.
Hanks's involvement with Obama's re-election team has been called into question by rightwing US websites after a video emerged of the actor sharing a stage with a man in blackface on the conservative-leaning Daily Caller website.
The home video, described as "nauseatingly racist" by conservative blogger John Nolte, shows Hanks – onstage at a 2004 charity event for his child's school – joking with investment banker James Montgomery, who is dressed in an afro wig and animal-print costume and has his face blackened. The event also saw Hanks and his co-host, Eagles rock star Glenn Frey, mock rightwing commentator Bill O'Reilly and take a swipe at the ethnic makeup of the school. "This is as close to diversity as we'll get at St Matthew's," jokes Frey as Montgomery appears onstage, before suggesting that he had trouble entering the building in costume.
Calling Montgomery's costume "hideously offensive", Hanks said: "What is usually a night of food and drink for a good cause was, regrettably, marred by an appalling few moments."
Hanks – who campaigned for the president in the run up to the 2008 election – provides the narration on The Road We've Travelled, a 17-minute short on the progress of the Obama administration. In the film, Hanks highlights Obama's long-term strategy for America's weakened economy before asking voters to consider re-electing the president for a second term.
Right-leaning groups condemned Hanks as a hypocrite and urged Obama to disassociate himself from the actor. "I call upon President Obama ... to remove Mr Hanks' voiceover from his video, and end any association or affiliation with Mr Hanks," said Niger Innis, spokesperson for the right-leaning Congress of Racial Equality.
But the attack on Hanks has been described as "the latest attempt to smear Hollywood liberals" by Paul Bond of the Hollywood Reporter, who highlights similar recent campaigns against comedians Chris Rock and Bill Maher. Rock's altercation with a Tea Party supporter at January's Sundance film festival has been used by author Jason Mattera to sell his book Hollywood Hypocrites, while a heavily edited video of Maher's standup routine about Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann has been part of a funding drive by the conservative political action committee She-PAC.
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