When Kevin Hart was named by the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as the 91st annual Academy Awards host in early December, backlash to the announcement was swift and severe. In particular, people in the LGBTQ community noted Hart’s history of making anti-gay jokes on social media. Tweets from 2009 to 2011 surfaced and, less than a day after he was named as host, Hart stepped down from the gig. Now, Ellen DeGeneres wants Hart to host the 2019 Oscars and she’s campaigning hard for him to take back his spot, which still remains unfilled with just two months to go before the ceremony.
On Friday, DeGeneres told Hart during his appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that she personally called the Academy to ask if they’d take him back as 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. Whatever we can do, we would be thrilled,'” she said, recalling the conversation.
For Hart, it’s not that simple. He explained that hosting the Oscars has always been a dream of his, especially because of what it would mean as an African American comedian. “I would have been the fourth,” he said. “So, to get the moment, to celebrate the moment — ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe it’s happening’ — and then the next morning, after a day full of congratulations and celebrations, I’m hit with an onslaught on social media of my past coming back up again.” It was difficult for Hart to parse.
“My first thought is, ‘I’m going to ignore it. I’m going to ignore it because it’s 10 years old,'” he explained. “This is stuff I’ve addressed. I’ve talked about this. This isn’t new. I’m not going to pay it any mind because if you feed into that stuff, you only feed into the fire.” However, he added, the fact that people went through nearly 40,000 tweets to dig up those specific ones was “a malicious attack on my character. That’s an attack to end me.”
He said he ultimately stepped down from hosting because he didn’t want to be a distraction from the point of the Oscars: celebrating great work in film. DeGeneres disagreed with this notion. “[The trolls are] going to win if you don’t host the Oscars,” she told Hart. “It’s why [the Academy hasn’t] found another host. I think they were secretly hoping that you would come back.”
She added, “As a gay person, I am sensitive to all of that, and I talked to you about all of this and you’ve already expressed that it’s not being educated on the subject, not realizing how dangerous those words are, not realizing how many kids are killed for being gay or beaten up every day. You have grown, you have apologized, you are apologizing again right now. You’ve done it. Don’t let those people win. Host the Oscars.”
Although Hart didn’t make a decision about the hosting gig during his appearance on Ellen, he did promise DeGeneres that he would evaluate their conversation about the controversy and what the future may hold. “You have said a lot of amazing things,” he said. “You have put a lot of things on my mind. I know where our relationship stands. So leaving here, I promise you I’m evaluating this conversation. This is a conversation I needed to have.” He added, “Let me assess, just to sit in the space and really think, and you and I will talk before anything else.”
Ahead of the show airing, DeGeneres tweeted clips from their conversation on Thursday night, writing, “I believe in forgiveness. I believe in second chances. And I believe in @KevinHart4real.” In another tweet, she explained, “I had an incredible and honest conversation with @KevinHart4real about hosting the #Oscars. It was supposed to air on Monday. I don’t want you to have to wait, so now it’s gonna air tomorrow.”
We’re eager to see where this conversation leads.