Social media users are sharing a video that appears to show American actor Tom Hanks calling a young girl a “sexy baby,” posting the footage alongside hashtags affiliated with conspiracy theories about pedophilia. This is misleading; the clip comes from a 2011 late-night television sketch satirizing a reality series about child beauty pageants.
“Tom Hanks not trying to hide it,” says text over a video shared January 4, 2023 on Instagram.
The clip shows Hanks, star of “Toy Story,” “Forrest Gump” and numerous other films, clapping and repeatedly cheering “sexy baby” at a young girl participating in a child beauty pageant.
The Instagram post’s caption includes hashtags referencing late American financier Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender, and the QAnon and Pizzagate conspiracy theories. Both are rooted in baseless claims that politicians and public figures — including Hanks — are involved in a global child sex trafficking ring.
Similar hashtags appear in another version of the clip shared on TikTok, which received more than one million views and was reposted to Twitter alongside a caption that says: “Scarily, this isn’t from a movie.” The video also circulated on The Donald, a far-right internet forum, and the messaging app Telegram.
The footage of Hanks is real, but it has been taken out of context.
“This was a comedy skit created for an episode of ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ in 2011,” said Whitney Tancred, Hanks’s publicist, in an email.
The late-night TV program’s skit offered a parody of “Toddlers & Tiaras,” a US reality series about child beauty pageants. The show ran from 2009 to 2016 and sparked criticism of the child pageant industry for sexualizing young girls.
The full “Jimmy Kimmel Live” sketch shows Hanks acting in the role of a father whose 6-year-old daughter, “Sophie Hanks,” competes in a fictional pageant called “Miss Ultimate Sexy Baby Nevada.” Actress Nikki Hahn played the role.
“In 2011, Nikki brought big laughs into everyone’s living rooms when she starred as ‘Sophie Hanks,’ the daughter of Tom Hanks, in a spoof skit of TLC’s ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’ on the ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ post-Academy Awards special,” Hahn’s website says.
Hanks does not have a daughter named Sophie; his four children are named Colin, Elizabeth, Chet and Truman, according to his IMDb biography.
AFP reached out to “Jimmy Kimmel Live” for comment, but no response was forthcoming.