Kevin Hart has stepped down as host of the 2019 Academy Awards following backlash over past statements seen as homophobic, saying in a post on social media that he did not “want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists.”
Following an announcement on Tuesday that Hart would host the Oscars, the comedian drew ire online over tweets made between 2009 and 2011, including one in which he wrote that if he caught his son playing with a dollhouse, he would “break it over his head” and tell him, “stop that’s gay.” Some tweets have since been deleted.
Critics also pointed to a bit in Hart’s 2010 special, Seriously Funny, in which he claimed that “one of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay.”
On Thursday, Hart said in an Instagram post that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had asked him to apologize for his comments or risk losing the gig as host. The comedian said he decided not to apologize “because I’ve addressed this several times.”
"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,” Hart said.
However, just after midnight on Friday morning, Hart tweeted an apology and announced that he would step down as host.
“I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past. I'm sorry that I hurt people,” Hart wrote. “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."
This year’s Academy Awards ceremony is scheduled to take place Feb. 24. No replacement has yet been announced. However, while this particular scandal may have left the Oscars in a tight spot, it is far from the Academy’s first kerfuffle. Some previous examples:
The Moonlight Incident
One of the biggest blunders in recent Academy Awards memory came in 2017, when presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly announced the musical La La Land as best picture, when the actual winner was Moonlight, a triptych of a gay African American man’s evolution from boyhood to manhood. Dunaway reportedly received the wrong envelope ahead of reading the winner — a simple mistake, but the moment became known as “the craziest Oscar moment of all time,” as La La Land star Emma Stone called it.
The Moonlight mistake came just a year after the Academy Awards faced controversy over a lack of diversity in its nominations that year, with critics pointing to the fact that all 20 nominations for lead and supporting acting awards were white. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite gained steam on social media, leading to calls for the ceremony to become more inclusive, including from celebrities including Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, who didn’t attend the 2016 ceremony over the Oscars’ lack of diversity.
Eddie Murphy Steps Down
Kevin Hart isn’t the first Oscars host to abandon the gig, though Eddie Murphy’s 2011 exit was for a related reason. Murphy was slated to host the 84th Academy Awards telecast, but stepped down after producer Brett Ratner exited the production after controversy erupted over homophobic comments he had made, including one in which he said, “Rehearsal is for f--.” Murphy, who worked with Ratner on 2011’s Tower Heist, reportedly viewed Ratner as a “creative partner,” and declined to host a day after the producer’s departure. James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosted instead. It did not go well.
Other stars have refused to accept awards from the academy, dating back to 1936 — several years after the first ceremony. That year, the actor Dudley Nichols refused a screenplay award for 1935’s The Informer over a Writers Guild strike, making him the first winner to turn down an Oscar. George C. Scott, meanwhile, became the first to turn down an acting Oscar in 1971, when he refused to accept a best actor win for his role as Gen. George S. Patton in Patton. Marlon Brando followed suit the following year, but rather than refusing a best actor win for playing Vito Corleone in The Godfather, he sent Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather to turn down the award instead.
Elia Kazan’s Lifetime Achievement Award
Two-time Oscar-winning director Elia Kazan was well-known in Hollywood, but that doesn’t mean everyone was thrilled with his 1999 Lifetime Achievement award. When the academy presented Kazan with the honor, many notables — like Steven Spielberg, Ed Harris, and Nick Nolte — were spotted refusing to stand or applaud. The award was a controversial one: In 1952, at the height of the Red Scare, Kazan gave testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee in which he snitched on eight friends who, like him, had been involved with the Communist Party. He later refused to apologize for giving testimony, which made Kazan a pariah for many.
Hattie McDaniel’s Segregated Oscar Win
In 1940, the actress Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to receive an Academy Award, for her role as Mammy in Gone With the Wind — an achievement that was marred by the segregation of the time. The venue where the ceremony was held that year, the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, was segregated, and producers reportedly had to “call in a special favor” to get McDaniel in, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Inside, she was seated at a segregated table, separate from her co-stars.