Controversy over the Oscars Host

By, Catherine F. ’21

Being chosen to host the Oscars is seen as one of the pinnacles of the entertainment industry.  For actor and comedian Kevin Hart, however, his selection has been mired in controversy after homophobic tweets he posted years ago resurfaced in the past months. Hart, who has starred in movies such as Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and The Wedding Ringer, has done little to quiet the storm since they were brought to light, and since his stepping down on December 6, the Oscars still have not announced a replacement host.

In an Instagram post on December 4, Hart announced he was to host the February 24 event, calling the job “the opportunity of a lifetime.” But two days later, Hart stepped down from his role after a number of controversial tweets he posted were rediscovered by Benjamin Lee, an editor at the newspaper Guardian.

From 2009-2011, Hart wrote and posted a series of since deleted tweets that made homophobic comments and jokes regarding gay people and sexuality. In an Instagram video on December 6, Hart described how the Academy of Motion Pictures, the organization that awards the Oscars, told him to “apologize for [his] tweets… or [they would] have to find another host.” In the same video, he stated that he already “has addressed this [issue] several times” and has explained why he was wrong and therefore believed any further apology would be “feeding the internet trolls.”

Hart also stated that he believed the effort to go through his 40,000 tweets was “a malicious attack on my character. That’s an attack to end me.” He therefore refused to empathize with his critics. But, just two hours after posting the video in which he refused to apologize, Hart expressed remorse for his actions and stepped down from hosting. Hart tweeted that he did “not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazingly talented artists.” In another tweet, he “sincerely apologize[d] to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past.”

Many public figures have voiced their opinions on the Kevin Hart controversy, including Ellen DeGeneres and Chad Griffin. Griffin is the head of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group. He responded to Hart on Twitter to voice his criticism for the actor’s immediate refusal to apologize, saying that Hart “has a rare opportunity to…send a message to LGBTQ youth that they matter” and that he should “make amends for hurtful things [he has] said.” Griffin told The Panel, “That’s the background as to why my statement didn’t call on him to step down; I had hoped he’d step up, own it, take full responsibility, clearly explain his own evolution, and help move equality forward.”

Ellen DeGeneres, TV show host and LGBTQ advocate, also weighed in on the controversy. DeGeneres interviewed Hart on her show, Ellen, on January 6. DeGeneres revealed that she called the Academy because she “really wants you (Hart) to host the Oscars,” and she urged Hart to reconsider hosting. Ellen told him that “as a gay person, I am sensitive to all of that…You have grown, you have apologized, you are apologizing again right now. You’ve done it.” She also told him that the only way to keep the trolls from winning was to host the Oscars.

Caroline B.’19, a co-head of Winsor Spectrum, also gave her opinion on the issue. She thought that it was “a hard topic. On one hand, apologies should be taken seriously. On the other hand, Hart had some seriously offensive comments.” Though, she thought that the Oscars had the responsibility to “find another Oscar host who hasn’t had a history of troubling comments, especially considering the backdrop of the #MeToo movement.”

On February 6, it was announced that in light of today’s charged political climate, the Academy is eliminating the role of host all together.