Kevin Hart appeared Friday on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and discussed with the host his decision to step down as host of this year’s Oscars following a controversy that erupted online last month over homophobic tweets dating back to 2009.
At the time, Hart apologized for the tweets, and told fans on social media that he relinquished the gig to avoid being a distraction. DeGeneres, however, wants the Philadelphia-born comedian to host the Academy Awards, and told him so on Friday’s show, seen locally on NBC10.
“As a gay person, I am sensitive to all of that, and I talked to you about all of this, and you’ve already expressed that it’s not being educated on the subject,” DeGeneres said on the syndicated talk show. “You have grown, you have apologized, you are apologizing again right now. You’ve done it.”
DeGeneres said she called the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to urge that Hart be brought back on as Oscars host, which she said would show “sophistication, class, hilarity, and you growing as a person.”
Hart, meanwhile, said he was uncertain about hosting the Feb. 24 ceremony due to the “malicious attack on my character” he experienced after being announced as host. At the time, some critics went through his 38,000 tweets to find several homophobic statements, including a 2009 tweet in which he used a derogatory term for homosexual men, and a 2011 tweet that threatened violence against his son if he played with dolls.
As Hart told DeGeneres, he has apologized several times for those statements over the last decade, including in promos for 2015’s Get Hard and on a 2012 junket, during which he “was asked questions about homophobia based on those tweets.”
“It wasn’t a coincidence that the day after I received the job, that tweets just somehow manifested,” Hart said. “To go through 40,000 tweets to go back to 2008, that’s an attack. That’s a malicious attack on my character. That’s an attack to end me. That’s not an attack to just stop the Oscars.”
“But they’re going to win if you don’t host the Oscars,” DeGeneres said. “You can’t let them destroy you, and they can’t destroy you, because you have too much talent. No one can do that.”
Despite DeGeneres' encouragement, Hart was not sold on taking back hosting duties by the end of his interview. He did say that DeGeneres gave him a lot to think about, and that he needed time to “really think” about hosting this year’s ceremony.
DeGeneres, he added, will be the first to know his decision. “You and I will talk before anything else,” he said.