Hours after posting a video saying he had turned down the Academy's demand that he publicly apologize for old tweets, comedian Kevin Hart stepped down as Oscars host amid a firestorm over his past comments about homosexuality.
Hart made the announcement on Twitter just after midnight Friday. "I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year's Oscar's....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," he wrote in a series of tweets. "I'm sorry that I hurt people. I am evolving and want to continue to do so. My goal is to bring people together not tear us apart. Much love & appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again."
A few hours before the announcement, Hart said in a video he posted on Instagram that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences had contacted him and said he either had to apologize for the past tweets, posted between 2009 and 2011, or they're "going to have to move on and find another host."
"I chose to pass. I passed on the apology," said Hart. "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 moved on. I'm in a completely different space in my life."
Earlier in the day, Hart broke his silence over the controversy swirling around past jokes and comments he made on the stage and on Twitter, posting a video on Instagram in which he said he wasn't going to "let the craziness frustrate me or anger me."
"I swear, man, our world is becoming beyond crazy," he said. "I'm not going to let the craziness frustrate me or anger me, especially when I worked hard to get to the mental space that I am at now. My team calls me, 'Oh my, God, Kevin, this world is upset about tweets you did years ago.' Guys, I'm almost 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 or explain their past, then do you. I'm the wrong guy, man. I'm in a great place, a great mature place, where all I do is spread positivity."
He added in a comment in the post, "Stop looking for reasons to be negative...Stop searching for reasons to be angry."
The backlash over what was reportedly "hundreds" of problematic past jokes and tweets from 2009-2011 began with one particular bit back in 2010, for which Hart has since apologized a number of times, as Yahoo noted Wednesday:
In Hart’s 2010 comedy special Seriously Funny, he did a bit that had him saying that his “biggest fear” was his son “growing up and being gay.” He said, “Keep in mind, I’m not homophobic. I have nothing against gay people. Be happy. Do what you want to do. But me, as a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will.” He then launched into stories about his son, then 3, having his first gay moment with a friend and how he needed to “nip it in the bud” by screaming at him, “Stop, that’s gay!” Hart has since spoken about the joke, telling Rolling Stone in 2015 that it was really about his “own insecurities” as a parent, again reiterating he’s not homophobic and saying he “wouldn’t tell that joke today, because when I said it, the times weren’t as sensitive as they are now."
The Hollywood Reporter highlighted a few other tweets that have since been deleted:
In one 2011 tweet, the comedian and movie star wrote, "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.'" In another from 2010, Hart says someone's profile pic looks "like a gay bill board for AIDS." And in another written in 2009, he calls someone a "fat faced fag."
The comments prompted a flood of condemnation online, with some of Hart's fellow celebs weighing in. THR also reports that GLAAD got involved, contacting the Academy, Hart's management, and ABC to "discuss his rhetoric and record as well as opportunities for positive LGBTQ inclusion on the Oscars stage," according to the organization's chief communications officer Rich Ferraro.