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Fact check: Misleading claims about Tom Hanks, Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey

Posts on social media from late July, 2020, claim that Tom Hanks has been issued a Greek passport, Ellen DeGeneres’ show is under investigation, and Oprah Winfrey is “ending her magazine,” all in the “last 24 hours.” These claims contain some inaccuracies.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

One post with over 36,000 shares can be seen here . Comments include, “Things are getting juicy !! These sick people need to go !!!!” and “it's hard for them to fathom that their celebrity heroes are not what they expected. The truth is what we need more of!”

The comments refer to “Pizzagate”, a conspiracy theory which stemmed from a fake online report that a Washington DC pizza restaurant was cover for a child sex trafficking ring (  here ). The New York Times explains the conspiracy theory in depth  here . 

Some social media users are reviving these theories in the run up to the November election. Reuters recently debunked a viral conspiracy involving the furniture maker Wayfair, which was accused of trafficking children in their closets ( here ), as well as other conspiracy claims involving Hanks, DeGeneres and Winfrey  ( here , here , here , and here ).

TOM HANKS

Tom Hanks did recently get issued a Greek passport but not because of a conspiracy theory link.

In late July, Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson became honorary Greek citizens because of their work spreading awareness of the 2018 fires that devastated Greece’s Attica region and their promotion of Greek tourism through their frequent trips to Antiparos, where the family owns a house ( here , here ). Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis shared a photograph with the couple on his Instagram page on July 26 here .

Rita Wilson also has Greek heritage. Her mother was Greek and she was raised Greek Orthodox ( here , here ).

ELLEN DEGENERES

Reuters Fact Check recently debunked claims that Ellen DeGeneres’ show had been cancelled here .

The suggestion that Ellen’s show is under investigation likely stems from recent allegations of a toxic work culture at the popular talk show. A Buzzfeed report from mid-July included damning allegations from former employees, blasting the show for not being true to Ellen’s “be kind” mantra ( here ).

On July 30, DeGeneres sent an emotional message to the staff of her television talk show saying she was taking steps to improve the culture on set following accusations of a hostile working environment. The email followed an internal investigation by Warner Bros. Television, which produces “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” of complaints ranging from bullying to racism among production staff.

Warner Bros. Television said in a statement that although “not all of the allegations were corroborated, we are disappointed that the primary findings of the investigation indicated some deficiencies related to the show’s day-to-day management.” It said several staffing changes and other measures were being implemented, but did not give details ( here ).

While DeGeneres’ show was investigated by Warner Bros. Television because of allegations of a toxic work culture by former employees, Facebook posts and comments implying or linking this to the Pizzagate conspiracy are unfounded.

OPRAH WINFREY

To claim Oprah Winfrey’s magazine is ending is misleading. The billionaire’s iconic magazine, O, recently announced a halt to print editions only ( to.pbs.org/30unkfT ) After 20 years of publication, Hearst, which publishes the magazine, told PBS it would largely end print publishing in December 2020 to become “more digitally-centric.”

It is not unusual for publications to shift to digital platforms as audiences move increasingly online ( here ).

VERDICT

Partly false. Winfrey’s magazine is not cancelled but transitioning from print to digital-only. Warner Bros. is investigating claims of “toxic work culture” at DeGeneres’ show and Tom Hanks did receive honorary Greek citizenship. However, these events are not connected to a debunked conspiracy theory.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .  

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