On Dec. 5, Kevin Hart broke the news.
“I am so happy to say that the day has finally come for me to host the Oscars,” he wrote in an Instagram post. “This has been a goal on my list for a long time.”
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) December 5, 2018
But by the next day, Hart had stepped down. The quick road to his decision started with renewed attention to a string of homophobic tweets he penned mostly between 2009 and 2011. He has since deleted some, including one that read, “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.”
Hart’s anti-gay sentiment has also appeared in his standup material, such as 2010’s “Seriously Funny,” in which he claims “one of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay.”
In a video posted to Instagram on Dec. 6, Hart explained the Academy had given him an ultimatum: apologize for the tweets, or prepare for them to find another host. Hart said he would not apologize because he had addressed the issue several times, and there was “no harm, no foul” if the Academy took the opportunity away. The post was captioned “I know who I am & so do the people closest to me. #LiveLoveLaugh”
About an hour later, Hart announced he would step down.
“I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists,” he tweeted. “I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from the past.”
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.
— Kevin Hart (@KevinHart4real) December 7, 2018
In a statement to The Wrap, LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD’s President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said Hart “shouldn’t have stepped down; he should have stepped up” and used the moment to raise awareness around LBGTQ issues.
The Academy’s search for a host was joked about on “Saturday Night Live” a week later, and almost a month passed with no news on the issue. Then on Jan. 4, Hart issued an apology on “Ellen.”
“I don’t joke like that anymore because that was wrong,” he said. “I’m sorry if these words hurt.”
However, he also called the resurgence of his old tweets “an attack.”
“That’s an attack to end me. That’s not an attack to just stop the Oscars,” he said. “This was to destroy me.”
Ellen DeGeneres, a prominent gay celebrity and former Oscars host, urged Hart to go ahead with hosting, saying the people who brought up his past comments were “going to win” if he didn’t. She also said she called the Academy, who told her they would be “thrilled” if Hart would host. The Academy has not confirmed this.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) January 4, 2019
The interview was met with criticism for both DeGeneres and Hart.
Jamar St. Rogers, a former contestant on “The Voice,” found DeGeneres’s view of Hart’s critics “dismissive and harmful.”
— Jamar St. Rogers (@JSquidward) January 4, 2019
Ellis reiterated GLAAD’s original point, Variety reported.
“From when this news first broke, GLAAD said Kevin Hart should not step down from the Oscars, he should step up and send an unequivocal message of acceptance to LGBTQ youth that matches the force and impact of his initial anti-LGBTQ remarks,” she told the publication.
In a column for Variety, Caroline Framke argued that Hart’s appearance on the show made the matter worse.
For Vulture, Megh Wright tried to unearth the apologies Hart said he had already made during the “Ellen” interview. She concluded he had addressed or acknowledged the criticism, but found it “simply inaccurate to say that Hart has apologized for or sincerely reckoned with it in a meaningful way until his Ellen interview.”
Hart addressed the issue again on his SiriusXM radio show “Straight From the Heart” three days later. He apologized and said “we have to be understanding and accepting of people and change,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
And on Jan. 9, Hart appeared on “Good Morning America” to set the record straight — he would not host.
“I’m over it,” he told Michael Strahan in response to multiple questions surrounding the matter.
With last year’s Oscars pulling in record low ratings and less than seven weeks until showtime, many were left to wonder who would take Hart’s place.
The same day that Hart appeared on “Good Morning America,” Variety reported that the Academy had chosen to forge ahead without a host, and would alternatively include many presenters and focus on the high-profile musical nominees such as Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar. ABC News officially confirmed the program would be without a host on Feb. 5. The Oscars have not gone without a host since 1989.
Between Feb. 4 and Feb. 20, the Academy announced a slew of A-listers slated to present, including Elsie Fisher, Jason Momoa, John Mulaney, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Pharrell Williams. Household names outside of entertainment, including Congressman John Lewis and Serena Williams, will present some of the best picture nominees.
The 91st Academy Awards ceremony will air Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. on ABC.