According to a research firm called the Marketing Arm, Brian Williams had once been listed as the 23rd Most Trusted celebrity in America, but he’s now fallen to 835, on a par with Gene Hackman and one of the Duck Dynasty stars. I checked the Forbes Most Trusted List for 2014, and the top ten are Tom Hanks, Carol Burnett, Morgan Freeman, Michael J. Fox, Betty White, Robin Roberts, Denzel Washington, Maggie Smith and Ron Howard. Bill Cosby has recently descended from #3 to #2615. This is from a study of 6000 celebrities, which means that shockingly, there are stars who people trust even less than Bill Cosby.
The Readers Digest Most Trusted list includes, in its top ten, Alex Trebek, Bill Gates, Sandra Bullock and, at #1, Tom Hanks.
So there it is: Tom Hanks is the most trusted person in America. I love Tom Hanks, but would I lend him money? Would I leave him alone in my house? Would I give him any of my PIN numbers?
Here are attributes which may account for a star’s trustworthiness:
1. They’ve suffered from either an illness or the loss of a child.
2. They’ve continually played the roles of trustworthy, appealing, paternal characters onscreen. Morgan Freeman has played God more than once.
3. They’ve avoided public scandals.
4. They’ve consistently entertained America without being particularly edgy.
5. They’re a fantasy version of a favorite aunt, uncle, cousin, coach, parent or designated driver.
6. They’ve written at least one inspirational autobiography.
7. They’re not pushy about their appeal.
8. Interestingly, three of the women on the list are extremely funny.
9. They’ve endured.
But here’s a larger question: why do we need to trust our celebrities? Are we going to list them as emergency contacts on our health insurance? Are they going to drive our Moms to the doctor? Are they going to remember to feed and walk our dogs?
The only reason to ascertain a star’s trustworthiness is to measure their value as a spokesperson. So according to the list, Tom Hanks could sell the rest of us Jell-o, handguns, whiskey and condoms. Trustworthiness does not seem to be required for a signature fragrance.