Hanks apologizes to Fox’s O’Reilly for smear during racist skit

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Amid controversy over his unplanned participation in a 2004 blackface skit, noted actor Tom Hanks apologized Tuesday night for joking that the shocking scene was caused by Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News Channel’s top-ranked host.

“I used Bill O’Reilly as the punch line of an uncomfortable joke that was hardly funny and [was] unfair,” Hanks emailed The Daily Caller.

“I have no reason to think Mr. O’Reilly would have found both the reason for the joke nor my use of it funny in any way,” said Hanks, whose blackface skit surfaced in a video posted by TheDC on Monday.

Hanks’ 2004 jibe came as he saw the final donor at a school auction fundraiser approach him dressed in blackface, an Afro wig and a leopard-print toga.

“Oh jeez … Ladies and gentlemen, a celebrity in our midst!” Hanks exclaimed. “Who would have thought that Bill O’Reilly would join us?”

“I accept his apology — everybody makes mistakes,” O’Reilly told TheDC. “I don’t think that Hanks had anything [in mind] other than trying to get a wise-guy line off. … I don’t hold it against him.”

Before he apologized for the O’Reilly remark, Hanks had denounced the racist skit earlier Tuesday.

That denunciation came eight years after the incident, when TheDC published the first publicly seen video of the event on Tuesday morning.

“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,” he said through a publicist late Monday afternoon.

When asked about his attributing the “hideously offensive” routine to O’Reilly, Hanks responded that “I regret the cheap shot.”

Hanks is a skilled actor and entertainer, and should have ushered the blackface-costumed donor off-stage rather than banter with him, said John Nolte, editor-in-chief of the conservative website BigHollywood.com.

“How hard would it have been for Tom Hanks … to get the guy off stage in a way that would not ruin the room?” Nolte asked.

But liberals, he said, can be indulgent to racism among their friends, Nolte said. They “think, ‘Well, I’m not racist so I can do racist things.’”

Hanks’ toleration of a racist theatrical routine won’t harm him among liberals, Nolte added, because “they’re not going to go after a sacred cow, or do to him what they did to Rush Limbaugh or to [Texas Gov.] Rick Perry.”

The video of the racist skit was provided to TheDC after Hanks volunteered his time and voice to narrate a gushing campaign documentary for President Barack Obama titled “The Road We’ve Traveled.”

The documentary was released this month.

On Monday, Obama’s 2012 campaign, the White House and the Democratic National Committee all declined TheDC’s request for a comment about Hanks’ participation in the 2004 charity fundraising routine.

Hanks is a prominent supporter of President Obama. His children attended St. Matthew’s Parish School in Pacific Palisades, Calif. — the expensive private Episcopal school that hosted the fundraiser. St. Matthews charges $23,225 per student, although roughly one-seventh of its pupils receive a 50-percent discount.

“Our goal is to reflect the diversity present in the San Mateo community,” reads the school’s website. “We enroll students from a broad variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds.”

Watch the 2004 video:

[dcvideo videoid=”24779126″ name=”ndnPlayer_24779126″ type=”ndn” /]

Liberals and progressives in politics and pop culture-related industries have derided Fox’s Bill O’Reilly for more than a decade.

In 2003, for example, the Southern Poverty Law Center alleged that O’Reilly’s guests included people with “racist” views who opposed illegal immigration.

That same year, rapper Ludacris released a CD including the lyric, “I know who let ’em in [the prostitutes], it was Bill O’Reilly / Faggot / Ya’ white bread, chicken-shit nigga!”

This musical criticism led to Pepsi’s termination of the rapper’s endorsement contract after an incensed O’Reilly committed to personally avoiding Pepsi products on-air.

In August 2003, porn merchant Larry Flynt urged a “National Prayer Day … [to] pray for the death of Bill O’Reilly.”

Also in 2003, comedian Al Franken declared in his book, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them” that O’Reilly is a “bully.” Franken is now a Democratic senator.

In 2001, O’Reilly traded barbs with Hanks and liberal actor George Clooney over their role in the management of a Sept. 11, 2001 charity.

The day before Hanks’ 2004 fundraiser, New York Times theater critic Frank Rich told a reporter that, “Whenever [O’Reilly] attacks me, it sets off a flood of antisemitic e-mails and voice mail messages.”

Despite progressives’ decade-old jeers about extremism, O’Reilly’s show attracts more than twice as many American viewers during his time slot as the competing liberal hosts on CNN and MSNBC combined.

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