Comedian Kevin Hart tweeted on Friday, Dec. 7 that he would step down from hosting The Academy Awards after receiving backlash for not apologizing for homophobic tweets and stand-up material. In an Instagram video posted earlier that day, Hart elaborated on the circumstances of his stepping down.
“I just got a call from the Academy and that call basically said, ‘Kevin, apologize for your tweets of old or we’re going to have to move on to find another host,’” Hart said. “I chose to pass...on the apology.”
The initial backlash stems from multiple since-deleted tweets. “Yo if my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my daughters doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head & say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay.’” said one tweet. Another detailed Hart calling a guy a “FAT FAG.”
The tweets, dated from 2009-11 when the comedian was in his early thirties, weren’t the only source of controversy. In a bit from his 2010 comedy special Seriously Funny, Hart detailed his fear of his young son being a homosexual. “If I can prevent my son from being gay, I will,” the comedian said.
A few members of the comedy community criticized the underlying message of these jokes.
“Many of us have jokes/tweets we regret,” openly gay comedian Billy Eichner tweeted. “What bothers me about these is you can tell it’s not just a joke-there’s real truth anger and fear behind these. I hope Kevin’s thinking has evolved since 2011”.
While Hart didn’t formally apologize for the comments until stepping down from his position, he mentioned the controversy in a separate Instagram video earlier Friday afternoon. “If you don’t believe that people change...as they get older, I don’t know what to tell you,” Hart said. “If you want to hold people in a position where they always have to justify the past, do you.” In the video’s description, Hart asked his audience to “Stop looking for reasons to be negative.” Nowhere in the video or its description did Hart directly mention the tweets or the queer community.
Some thought that keeping Hart as host would have been beneficial to the queer community.
“We were hoping that this was going to turn into a teachable moment,” Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of queer media organization GLAAD, said. “That [Kevin Hart] would be using this moment not only to show his evolution with the LGBT community but then also use the Oscar stage...to help build unity and awareness around the LGBTQ community.”
These homophobic comments were brought to light after last Wednesday’s announcement that the comedian would host the annual Academy Awards in February. Hart has just had a string of successful recent films including “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “Night School” and currently has more than 34 million Twitter followers.
“To the Academy that’s important,” Matthew Belloni, editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter, said in an interview with the Associated Press. “They want someone who can bring a new audience to the show.”
The Academy now not only has to deal with Oscars ratings steadily declining each year since 2014, but has to find a replacement host for it in only three months.
Edited by Janae McKenzie | firstname.lastname@example.org