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Kevin Hart Steps Down From Hosting the Oscars: ‘I Do Not Want to Be a Distraction’

Hosting the Academy Awards is his dream, but not if it means saying he's sorry for homophobic tweets: "I've done it. I've done it."

Kevin HartVariety Massive Summit, Los Angeles, USA - 20 Mar 2018

Kevin Hart at the Variety Massive Summit, March 2018

Chelsea Lauren/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Kevin Hart said that if he had to choose between hosting the Oscars and apologizing for his homophobic tweets, he’d rather “pass on the apology.” And on Thursday night, he made good on his claim, stepping down from the role… and apologizing as he did it.

The Academy announced him as host just two days ago, and almost immediately met a tsunami of backlash. That was the day the trades reported that they just couldn’t seem to land an Oscar host — and, the day of the Academy Museum show-and-tell where Academy president John Bailey was upset because, they had hired a host; they just hadn’t announced it yet. So they did, immediately.

Kevin Hart had been eager to host the Oscars since 2015; it was on his bucket list. That played well with the Academy, who had tired of so many former and possible Oscar hosts turning them down. Why not go back to such recent (safe) successes as Ellen DeGeneres and Hugh Jackman? No, they were dazzled by a genuine movie star with 34.6 million Twitter followers and someone with serious social media savvy, who wasn’t in everyone’s living room every night, like their host for the last two years, Jimmy Kimmel.

Kevin Hart, with more than $1.2 billion in total global box office, seemed like the perfect antidote to their declining ratings. Still, one can ask, legitimately, why the Academy didn’t see this coming. Did they not vet this guy? Until the Academy announced his hiring, his homophobic tweets were still live. (They’ve been taken down since.)

Hart made the statement in an Instagram video:

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 and find another host.’ I’m talking about the tweets from 2009 and 2010. I chose to pass on the apology. 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’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. We feed the internet trolls and we reward them. I’m not going to do it, man. I’m going to be me. I’m going to stand my ground. Regardless, Academy, I’m thankful and appreciative of the opportunity. If it goes away, no harm, no foul.

Prior to this evening’s tweet, it’s unclear if Hart had made a public and explicit apology for his statements. In a July 2015 Rolling Stone interview, he did address a routine from his 2010 standup special in which he said, “One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay.” As he told the publication:

“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. The funny thing within that joke is it’s me getting mad at my son because of my own insecurities — I panicked. It has nothing to do with him, it’s about me. That’s the difference between bringing a joke across that’s well thought-out and saying something just to ruffle feathers.” Even so, he adds, “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?”

Hart also appeared on The Breakfast Club radio show in January 2015, and spoke about why he wouldn’t play a gay character in a film.

“No. Not because I have any ill will or disrespect… I don’t think I’m really going to dive into that role 100 percent because of the insecurities about myself trying to play that part. What I think people are going to think while I’m trying to do this, is going to stop me from playing that part the way that I’m supposed to.”

However, neither of these statements exactly rose to the level of an apology, as when Hart publicly apologized to his wife and family after he said he was the victim of an extortion attempt by a woman who claimed he had a sexual relationship with her while Hart’s wife was pregnant.

IndieWire has reached out to the Academy for comment.

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