Nikki Ritcher for the Wall Street Journal
UPDATED: Two days after Deadline revealed that Kevin Hart was the choice to host the Academy Awards, he has put himself in danger of losing his dream job because of the viral momentum of old social media missives that betray insensitivity towards the gay community at the least and an attitude of homophobia at the worst. This has been building all day.
Hart, who is overseas, finally responded with an Instagram post in which he is shirtless save for gold chains or diamonds, and where he delivers this message:
“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,” he said. “I am truly happy.”
Kevin, put on a shirt, and try again. And do it quickly.
(You can watch his video under the post.)
His missive doesnt undo the things he has said, which have been chronicled all day by websites all over the place. In one tweet from 2011, Hart wrote “Yo if my son comes home & trys 2 play with my daughters doll house Im going 2 break it over his head & say n my voice stop thats gay.'” In another reported missive posted earlier, Hart commented on someones profile photograph by writing it “like a gay bill board for AIDS.” Theres plenty more where that came from.
Hart might be able to save this job, but not unless he realizes that this goes deeper than merely a bunch of online trolls trying to create a gotcha moment. Much the way that the Academy was forced to pressure Brett Ratner to drop out of producing the Oscars years ago because he publicly uttered that “rehearsal is for f*gs” at a public event to discuss Tower Heist, and showed an utter disregard for women in a radio interview with Howard Stern, Harts old social media posts betray a decided prejudice against the gay community, one that is hurtful. If he no longer feels this way — he says that at 40, he has evolved — he should take this more seriously, right now. If not, he is backing the Academy into a corner, at a moment when there has never been such heightened scrutiny on words and how they are used by public figures.
Several years ago, when boosters of Jerry Lewis were putting him up for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, to give the former Oscar host a memorable moment at the Academy Awards for years of work for the Muscular Dystrophy telethons, some at the Academy recalled homophobic statements that Lewis had made over the years. They pressed him to apologize, and Lewis did, in September, 2008. He was named as the honoree after that, and given the award the following February with not much of an outcry. This was pre-social media.
It is easy to wonder why the Academy didnt vet Hart a little more carefully, since the comic reportedly didnt scrub some of his offensive comments until last night, after he got the Oscar hosting job. Well, his coronation as Oscar host was like a fire drill, with all the activity happening after Deadlines report rushed the process. It is certainly ironic that the Academy is now facing this controversy, because Hart seemed to fit an important criteria that the Academy was looking for. After decreasing ratings under host Jimmy Kimmel, the Academy wanted a host whose image would not prompt viewers in the Red States to opt out. As strong a host as Kimmel was, he spends every weekday night bashing President Donald Trump, as do all his late night peers.
Hart is not political in his humor. Hes also an underrated comic who has surprised people with his box office track record for hits, his tireless willingness to promote them, and the way he has built a following, helped by his smart, prolific use of social media to build his brand. But his missives on being unwilling to accept if his son was gay, and a penchant for throwing around hurtful words, is something that Kimmel would not do. It is unacceptable for the host of the Academy Awards. Now, these are old tweets, and while that didnt matter when Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was banished from the Disney kingdom (and remember, the Oscars are broadcast by Disney-owned ABC), many believe there could be a statute of limitations on dumb social media messages.
Hart might get the benefit of the doubt but only if he stands up and takes responsibility for the hurtful things he has written. Or at least explains himself more fully.
And the other result here is that it establishes Oscar host as the most thankless job in Hollywood.