Kevin Hart, selected to host Oscars, promptly steps down over old gay-slur tweets

Kevin Hart, selected to host Oscars, promptly steps down over old gay-slur tweets
Kevin Hart and Jimmy Fallon ride a roller coaster at Universal in 2014. YouTube video, Jimmy Fallon/NBC

Well, that was quick. Actor/comedian Kevin Hart has exited the 2019 Academy Awards show stage left, less than 48 hours after being announced as the Academy’s choice to play host to Hollywood’s biggest night.

The problem: old tweets from Hart in which he used slurs against gays and expressed, er, concern about the possibility of his son exhibiting gay traits.  Some of the comments came from old stand-up routines as well.

The tweets and one-liners are from 2011 and before; if BuzzFeed’s Adam B. Vary has a comprehensive selection of the tweets, they mostly seem to be from 2010.

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Taxed with his tweets, Hart pointed out that he has apologized for them before.  In an uncharacteristic move, he decided not to initiate a fresh groveling ritual.  He just opted to step down from hosting the Oscars.

[A]n Instragram video from the comedian … only made matters worse for him.

“My team calls me, ‘Oh my God, Kevin, everyone’s upset by tweets you did years ago,’” he said in that video. “Guys, I’m nearly 40 years old. If you don’t believe that people change, grow, evolve as they get older, I don’t know what to tell you. If you want to hold people in a position where they always have to justify the past, do you. I’m the wrong guy, man.”

A sequence followed in which, as Variety’s Kristopher Tapley says, things kept ringing wrong:

Those words rang as a defiant non-apology for many. Hours later, Hart resurfaced with another video stating that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had given him an ultimatum: Apologize or we’ll find a new host.

Hart stuck by his decision:

“I chose to pass on the apology,” the 39-year-old actor-comedian said in the video. “The reason why I passed is because I’ve addressed this several times. This is not the first time this has come up. I’ve addressed it. I’ve spoken on it. I’ve said where the rights and wrongs were. I’ve said who I am now versus who I was then. I’ve done it. I’m not going to continue to go back and tap into the days of old when I’ve moved on and I’m in a completely different place in my life.”

Things started ringing again:

That, too, rang hollow for many. Less than two hours later, Hart announced via Twitter that he was removing himself from the gig, and he finally offered the apology everyone was looking for.

The apology came too late.  In fact, Adam Vary had given Hart’s earlier apology, from 2015, a failing grade, and wasn’t going to accept any self-recusals from the apology ritual.

“He easily could’ve still hosted the Oscars.”  Apparently that wasn’t Hart’s priority.  His decision may have been wise from the standpoint of both comedy and timing, however. He’s probably right that he would have been a distraction as host.  Hollywood Reporter points out the following:

Journalist Mark Harris went even further, tweeting the choice of Hart as host was “out-of-sync for a year in which Rami Malek, Melissa McCarthy, Olivia Colman, Mahershala Ali, Richard E. Grant, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Lucas Hedges could all get nominated for playing LBGTQ characters.”

When things start out with such irreparable complaints, they usually go downhill from there.

Is there a way to have the Oscars in 2019 without making the entire evening about LGBTQ issues?  It seems doubtful.  Whatever the reason, meanwhile — and there’s no reason to think it’s related to the Year of LGBTQ Characters — the Academy hasn’t had an easy time of finding a host this year.

Now the Academy finds itself in the unenviable position of casting a net once again to fill a role that clearly no one wanted in the first place; the Dec. 5 announcement of Hart as emcee was quite late in the game, and sources say the organization has had more trouble than usual finding someone to front their show.

It’s just possible that the inevitability of being caught up in pre-Oscar controversy over “social justice” grievances is starting to discourage candidates for the job.  Interestingly, Kevin Hart’s feedback for the Twitter apology seems to be running about 80% supportive of him.  Quite a few of the tweeps are posting some version of this trenchant endorsement.  They’d rather have their comedy, it seems, than get back to writing sensitivity rules.

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LU Staff

LU Staff

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