When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave Kevin Hart a chance to apologize for his history of homophobic jokes and tweets, the comedian initially refused, explaining that he was taking a “pass” on the apology. Then, less than 48 hours after he was announced as host of the 2019 Oscars, he stepped down.
Hart hasn’t said much publicly in the month since, but with the 91st annual Academy Awards less than eight weeks away and still without a host, he sat down for his first interview since the entire debacle took place. And in a remarkably strategic move, he chose as his interviewer Ellen DeGeneres.
The comedian’s appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show was supposed to air this coming Monday, but after Thursday’s taping, the host tweeted that she didn’t want viewers to have to wait any longer to see their “incredible and honest conversation.” She wasn’t exaggerating.
In a series of clips released late Thursday night, Hart expresses some measure of regret for his past comments but mostly frustration with the way they were dredged up by the public after his “dream” job of hosting the Oscars was announced. More surprising was DeGeneres’ fierce defense of his evolution from the early days of his comedy when he joked about beating his son if he were to come out as gay. She even revealed that she called the Academy on his behalf in an attempt to get him reinstated as Oscar host.
Their conversation began with Hart discussing the elation he felt when he was first offered the chance to host the biggest award show of the year. And then the very next morning, he said he was “hit with an onslaught” of his social media past coming back to haunt him. His first thought was to “ignore” the controversy because he had sort of addressed the issue in the past.
When headlines claimed he “refused to apologize” for the jokes, he told DeGeneres he was angry the word “again” was left out. “So now the slander on my name is all homophobia,” he continued. “So now I’m a little upset. Because I know who I am. I know I don’t have a homophobic bone in my body.” He said he chose to step down and apologize again rather than steal the spotlight from Oscar nominees. “I don’t want to have this conversation anymore, because I know who I am. I’m not that guy.”
“I know you’re not that guy, because I know you,” DeGeneres responded when he was finished. After allowing Hart to fully explain his side of the story, she took a break and then offered her perspective.
Instead of further interrogating the sentiment that fueled those years-old jokes, DeGeneres heaped praise on Hart as a comedian and actor before revealing that she called the Academy on Thursday to make the case that he should be rehired as host of the event. According to her, they still desperately want him to host the show and regret how things worked out. “We would be thrilled,” they told her, offering to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
“There are so many haters out there on the internet,” DeGeneres told Hart. “Don’t pay attention to them.” If he doesn’t end up hosting the Oscars, she told him, those people will win. “You can’t let them destroy you,” she said, adding that she’s “praying” he changes his mind and agrees to host the show.
“I think it’s perfect that all this happened,” DeGeneres said. “Because there has to be a conversation about homophobia,” she added, saying that Hart has proven he’s a “bigger person” by apologizing. “You’ve grown, you’ve apologized, you’re apologizing again right now, you’ve done it. Don’t let those people win, host the Oscars.”
“We’re back with this year’s Oscar host Kevin Hart,” DeGeneres joked after yet another commercial break. But the comedian wasn’t convinced. He said he would be “evaluating” his decision to step down, but still seemed aggrieved over the “malicious attack” on his character. “This wasn’t a coincidence,” he said, seeming to argue that a conspiracy was to blame for the renewed focus on his past commentary.
“This is a conversation I needed to have,” Hart added. “I’m glad I had it here. And I’m glad that it was authentic and real as I hoped it would be.”