Would-be 2019 Academy Awards host Kevin Hart has opened up about the controversy that erupted in December over homophobic and transphobic comments he made in old tweets.
Appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Friday, Hart was candid about what it had meant for him to be selected to host the Oscars and the almost instantaneous “malicious attack” that followed the announcement.
“It was on my vision board. It would be the highest of highs, because there hasn’t been a lot of African-American comedians that have gotten to do it. I would’ve been the fourth,” he said. “So, to get the moment, celebrate the moment, oh my god I can’t believe it’s happening, and then the next morning, after a day of congratulations and celebrations, I’m hit with an onslaught on social media of my past coming back up again.”
The past he is referring to is tweets he says he apologized for years ago.
“When it happened, my first thought was I’m gonna ignore it. I was going to ignore it because this stuff is 10 years old. This is stuff I’ve addressed, I’ve talked about this stuff, I’ve apologized for it, I’m not gonna pay it any mind. Because when you feed into that stuff, you only add more fuel to the fire. So I was going to leave it alone. A day goes by, the fuse has grown, this fire is angry. It’s all over the place. Now the headlines are starting to change. The headlines are, ‘Kevin Hart refuses to apologize for homophobic tweets from the past.’ The word ‘again’ was left out. Everyone took those headlines and started to run with it. So now the slander on my name is all over. Now I’m a little upset,” he said.
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“I know that I’ve addressed it, I know that I’ve apologized,” he continued. “I know that within my apologies, I’ve taken 10 years to put my apology to work. I’ve yet to go back to that version of myself, I’ve moved on. I’m a grown man, I’m cultured. I’m a guy who understands now, I look at life through a different lens, and because of that I live it a different way. So now, I’m kind of upset because these 10 years are being ignored, they’re being brushed past. No one is saying, ‘Guys, this is 10 years ago.’ Headlines aren’t saying, ’10 years ago he apologized.’ Nobody’s finding the apologies, nobody’s finding the footage from when I had to address it. I had to address it when I did Get Hard promo with Will Ferrell because of that joke I had about my son. I had to address those tweets in 2012 at a heavy junket where I was asked questions about homophobia based on those tweets. I had to address it and apologize and say I understand how those words hurt. I understand why people would be upset, which is why I made the choice to not use them anymore. I don’t joke like that anymore, because that was wrong. That was a guy who was just looking for laughs, and it was stupid. I don’t do that.”
Hart also acknowledged that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the governing body in charge of the Oscars, had given him an “ultimatum” to make a public apology in the wake of the outcry.
“I was given an ultimatum: ‘Kevin apologize, or we’ll have to find another host.’ When I was given that ultimatum, this was now becoming a cloud. What was once the brightest light ever is now a cloud. The Oscars is no longer about Kevin Hart stepping on that stage and taking an intense night where people are so uptight and making it loose and fun. That was my reason for doing it! I want to make the Oscars fun. Now all of a sudden it’s a little darker, because the conversation isn’t about positives. The conversation is about Kevin Hart’s homophobic tweets from 10 years ago,” he said.
“I don’t want to step on that stage and make that night about me and my past when you have people who have worked hard to step on that stage for the first time and receive an award,” he continued. “I’m now taking away from those moments because the night is focused on something else now. That’s how I see it. Because I saw it like that, I said I would much rather step down and apologize again while stepping down. Once again, I’m sorry these words hurt. I’m sorry! But either my apology is accepted or it isn’t. Either I can move forward or I can’t, but you can’t grow as a person without mistakes. You don’t know what perfection is unless you’ve experienced imperfection. I don’t know the perfect person society’s now looking for, but it’s not me. I’m the first person to say it. There is no perfect bone in my body. I’ve made several mistakes, and I’m a better man today because of it. In this case I just said I wanted to walk away because it was a conversation that was just going to continue and continue and continue. I would much rather say I’m sorry again and walk away, because I want to be done with the conversation. I don’t want to have this conversation anymore because I know who I am. I’m not that guy.”
“I really want you to host the Oscars,” DeGeneres, a former Oscars host herself, told Hart in response. The talk show host went on to reveal she personally called the Academy to let them know she would support reinstating Hart as the host.
“They were like, ‘Oh my God. We want him to host. We feel like maybe he misunderstood or it was handled wrong or maybe we said the wrong thing but we want him to host,’” DeGeneres told Hart and the audience of her conversation. Later, coming back from commercial break, she introduced her guest as “this year’s Oscars host, Kevin Hart.”
“I think you have said a lot of amazing things. You’ve put a lot of things on my mind,” Hart told DeGeneres toward the end of his hourlong interview. “I’m promising you I’m evaluating this conversation.… Let me assess, just to sit in the space and really think. And you and I will talk before anything else.”
He added, “On my side, I say openly I’m wrong for my past words. I say it, I said it. I understand that, I know that. My kids know, when their dad messes up, I’m in front of it because I want to be an example so they know what to do.”