Kevin Hart announced on Twitter early Friday morning that he was stepping down from hosting this year’s Oscars ceremony after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences asked him to apologize for a number of his old tweets that used homophobic language, which he initially refused to do.
“I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year’s Oscar’s,” Hart tweeted. “This is because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists. I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past.”
Earlier in the evening, he posted an Instagram video in which he refused to apologize for the tweets.
Some quick background: This week it was announced that Hart would host the 91st Oscars ceremony on Feb. 24 — so naturally his Twitter account found itself under the microscope. Anyone wanting to disqualify Hart, at least in the court of public opinion, had a cornucopia of homophobic tweets from which to choose.
Several of those tweets began surfacing shortly afterward. Around the same time, it appears that some were deleted.
“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,’ ” read a 2011 tweet that Hart deleted this week, according to BuzzFeed News.
Several other tweets using various homophobic slurs remain on Hart’s account, including one asking “why does [Damien Dante Wayans’s] profile pic look like a gay bill board for AIDS,” with this strange brag tacked on at the end: “Booom, I’m on fire tonight.”
In another that remained online as of publication time, Hart says, “Lmao @ all of the woman asking me where the pic is, I’m not passing along a pic of a naked man!!! That would make me gay by association.”
In a video posted to Instagram Thursday night, Hart boldly announced that he refused to apologize — even though the Academy requested one of him.
“So 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 and find another host,’” he says in the video. “They’re talking about the tweets from 2009, 2010.”
At least one of these tweets was from 2011.
“I chose to pass, I passed on the apology,” he continues. “The reason I chose to pass 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’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 space in my life.”
“The same energy that went into finding those old tweets could be the same energy put into finding the response to the questions that have been asked years after years after years,” he adds.
Many articles have noted a 2015 Rolling Stone interview in which he addressed homophobic jokes from his stand-up routine — but not his Twitter account.
“We feed Internet trolls and reward them. I’m not going to do it, man. I’m going to be me. I’m gonna stand my ground,” Hart concluded. “Regardless, Academy, I’m thankful and appreciative of the opportunity. If it goes away, no harm no foul.”
“I know who I am & so do the people closest to me. #LiveLoveLaugh,” read text accompanying the video.
Earlier in the day, Hart posted an Instagram video with a caption saying, “Stop looking for reasons to be negative. . . . If u want to search my history or past and anger yourselves with what u find that is fine with me. I’m almost 40 years old and I’m in love with the man I am becoming.”
In the accompanying video, a shirtless Hart reclines on a bed and echoes the caption.
“My team calls me: ‘Oh my god, Kevin the world is upset about tweets you wrote eight years ago,’” he says. “If you don’t believe people change, grow, evolve as they get older, then I don’t know what to tell you. If you want to hold people in a position where they always have to justify or explain their past, do you. I’m the wrong guy, man.”
None of this should have come as a surprise to the motion picture academy. Hart has made quips like these in his stand-up as well.
“One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay. That’s a fear,” he said in the 2010 special “Seriously Funny.” “Keep in mind, I’m not homophobic, I have nothing against gay people, do what you want to do, but me, being a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will.”
As BuzzFeed’s Adam B. Vary pointed out in a tweet, “he seems to have basically stopped tweeting those words after 2011 — i.e. the year his first stand-up movie became a hit.”
That’s not a coincidence. While not directly discussing his tweets, Hart’s 2015 Rolling Stone interview, in which he discusses gay jokes in his stand-up, shed some light onto why homophobic slurs stopped appearing in his Twitter feed.
“It’s about my fear. I’m thinking about what I did as a dad, did I do something wrong, and if I did, what was it? Not that I’m not gonna love my son or think about him any differently,” he said. “I wouldn’t tell that joke today, because when I said it, the times weren’t as sensitive as they are now. I think we love to make big deals out of things that aren’t necessarily big deals, because we can. These things become public spectacles. So why set yourself up for failure?”
Of course, digging through a celebrity’s old Twitter feed for offensive jokes has become something of a ritual after the announcement of a high-profile gig.
Director Brett Ratner resigned as a producer of the Oscars in 2011 after he used an anti-gay slur (the very same one that Hart employed so often). Disney fired “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn from helming a third installment of the franchise after some of his Twitter jokes about rape and sex with children resurfaced.
But not everyone loses their gigs, even if the tweets surface. When Melissa Villaseñor was announced as a new “Saturday Night Live” cast member in 2016, she deleted more than 2,000 tweets, but not before the Internet detectives struck. Some of them were seen as racist, such as when she wrote, “Coworker at forever21 dates black guys and she said she will set me up on a blind date for valentines, I said yes but I’m scared.” Trevor Noah found himself in a similar position after taking over “The Daily Show,” when many of his old tweets that critics called “anti-Semitic” and “sexist” resurfaced.
It’s not just relegated to Hollywood, either. Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader took the mound at this year’s All-Star Game at Nationals Park. When he walked off at the end of the game, he found tweets from when he was 17 years old being splashed across the Internet. Many of these were considered racist and homophobic, such as one that simply read “I hate gay people.”