Comedian Kevin Hart backed out of being the host of the Oscars amid an uproar over his history of making homophobic jokes on Twitter.
In a late-night tweet, Hart wrote: “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. ”
His decision to give up the coveted hosting gig and apologize came after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences apparently gave Hart an ultimatum.
In an Instagram video posted late Thursday, Hart said he 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 chose to pass on the apology,” Hart said. “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’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 place in my life.”
Hart echoed the same sentiment in an a different Instagram video posted earlier in the evening.
“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’ve worked hard to get to the mental space where I am at now."
“My team calls me, ‘Oh my God, Kevin, this world is upset about tweets you did years ago,’” he continued. “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… I’m the wrong guy, man. I’m in a great place, a great mature place, where all I do is spread positivity.”
The accompanying caption urged critics to “stop looking for reasons to be negative” and “stop searching for reasons to be angry.”
Hart did not explain why he decided to change course and pull out of the Oscars telecast, but it was clear that the furor over ABC’s decision to tap him to host the 91st annual Academy Awards was gaining momentum.
As soon as he was named, old tweets dating back several years began to resurface. Most damning was one that read less like a joke and more like his true feelings on homosexuality.
“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,’” he wrote seven years ago.
It’s a theme that echoes material from his stand-up act. “One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay. That’s a fear,” he said in a 2010 special. “Keep in mind, I’m not homophobic, I have nothing against gay people, do what you want to do, but me, being a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will.”
The anti-bias group GLAAD said it reached out to ABC, The Academy, and Hart’s representation to “discuss Kevin’s anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and record as well as opportunities for positive LGBTQ inclusion on the Oscars stage.”
Ironically, ABC may have believed they were skirting controversy by hiring Hart, who is among the highest-paid comedians in the country, to host the Oscars following two years with Jimmy Kimmel at the helm. Kimmel’s political jokes about President Trump and other Republicans were blamed by many for a decline in ratings for the telecast.
By contrast, Hart has mostly refrained from making jokes about Trump in the past, telling The Daily Beast last year that he deliberately avoids political material so as not to alienate any potential audience members.
“The way that I see it, my job as a comedian is to spread positivity. To make people laugh. And I don’t want to draw attention to what’s already pissing us as a people off,” he said at the time. “I want to be a bright spot. I want to take your mind off of whatever may be going on in your life that could be wrong and give you a reason to say, you know what? It’s going to be OK. That’s being the positive, motivating, inspiring person that I am, that I always will be.”
The one recent exception came when he presented an award at the MTV VMAs this past August. “You never know what’s going to happen at the VMAs,” he said. “I mean, beefs pop off, bad language, people sending out crazy tweets. It’s basically like your typical day at the White House. In your face, Trump—suck it!”