In a Tuesday article titled “Why Oscar Host Has Become the Least Wanted Job in Hollywood,” The Hollywood Reporter floated Kevin Hart as possibly the only choice to host the 2018 ceremony the Academy had left. A lot has changed since then.
To recap: Mere hours after THR’s article was published, Hart was confirmed as the host. The following morning, people began resurfacing tweets in which Hart used anti-LGBTQ slurs. The comedian’s track record on this front is well-documented: His act once included a bit in which he imagined himself having a meltdown after finding out his son is gay, a bit he addressed in a 2015 Rolling Stone profile by saying, “I wouldn’t tell that joke today, because when I said it, the times weren’t as sensitive as they are now.” As Wednesday became Thursday, the resurfaced tweets gained more and more attention—with stars like Jamie Lee Curtis tweeting rebukes like “homophobia is not positivity”—until Hart himself was forced to address them. He did so by not apologizing at all in a post on Instagram:
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Stop looking for reasons to be negative...Stop searching for reasons to be angry....I swear I wish you guys could see/feel/understand the mental place that I am in. I am truly happy people....there is nothing that you can do to change that...NOTHING. I work hard on a daily basis to spread positivity to all....with that being said. If u want to search my history or past and anger yourselves with what u find that is fine with me. I’m almost 40 years old and I’m in love with the man that I am becoming. You LIVE and YOU LEARN & YOU GROW & YOU MATURE. I live to Love....Please take your negative energy and put it into something constructive. Please....What’s understood should never have to be said. I LOVE EVERYBODY.....ONCE AGAIN EVERYBODY. If you choose to not believe me then that’s on you....Have a beautiful day
Hours later Hart posted another video claiming that the Academy had given him an ultimatum—apologize or you’re out—and that he would not be acquiescing. “I chose to pass on the apology,” he 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.”
Two hours after that, Hart (perhaps realizing this controversy had moved beyond being “an Oscars problem” into being “a whole career problem”) announced he was stepping down as host:
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
What a couple of days.
The main takeaway here is how avoidable all of this was. Even if the Academy hadn’t done a background check on Hart’s Twitter—which they should have—his history of anti-LGBTQ language was still extremely public. In 2018, in Hollywood, the Academy should’ve known better and should’ve done better. This fiasco is a bow on what’s been a remarkably difficult year for the organization; its rush to hire Hart is depressingly similar to its rush to devise, announce with hardly any concrete details, and then postpone implementation of a “popular film” category.
Now the Academy finds itself in a tough situation, without a host and without any prospects. “Some of the best candidates … see little upside in taking on a job that pays only low six figures but requires weeks of work; that usually results in a media flaying; and that does little to boost the host’s profile,” Stephen Galloway wrote for THR. After this Kevin Hart controversy, the job’s even more unattractive, as any prospective host would knowingly subject themselves to major scrutiny, while inserting themselves in a toxic situation.
The Oscars are in 79 days.