clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Kevin Hart definitely won’t be Oscars host — so the Academy is pushing ahead without one

The Academy Awards will be host-less for the first time in three decades.

WSJ Tech D.Live
Kevin Hart in November 2018.
Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for The Wall Street Journal and WSJ Magazine
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

After several weeks of controversy and debate, Kevin Hart has made it official, again: He’s definitely not hosting the Academy Awards — and as a result, the Oscars will reportedly proceed without a host at all.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced in December that Hart would host the 2019 Oscars, but the news was immediately met with a social media firestorm concerning homophobic jokes and tweets that Hart made years ago. In the wake of round one of the controversy, Hart apologized to the queer community and stepped down from the hosting gig.

Ever since, many onlookers have felt that Hart’s apology was more “I’m sorry you were mad” than “I’m sorry for what I said.” Additionally, he has repeatedly referred to his detractors as “trolls” rather than people with legitimate cause for anger, a stance that has become another source of exasperation.

“The same energy put into finding those old tweets could be the same energy put into finding a response to questions that have been asked year after year,” he said in his original Instagram response to concerns over his past jokes. “We feed internet trolls and reward them. I’m not going to do it.”

This led to an ongoing debate over whether his recent apologies have been sincere and effective — especially after a January 4 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that sparked still more backlash against both Hart and host Ellen DeGeneres.

During that January 4 appearance, DeGeneres told Hart she wanted him to reconsider hosting, and he said he’d consider it. In the meantime, debate continued to rage.

On January 7, Hart formally apologized once again to the queer community on his Sirius XM show Straight From the Hart. “I understand why people are hurt, I understand what these words mean, I’m sorry,” Hart said. “This is wrong now because now ... I’m around people of the LGBTQ community and I’m now aware of how those words make them feel. ... And more importantly, within my comedy act, I’m gonna make sure that I don’t do anything else offensive.”

“I’m moving on from this moment ... because I’m just hoping that the apology is accepted.”

Controversially, however, he went on to say that he is not interested in becoming an “ally” to the queer community. “I don’t like, like Don Lemon goes on CNN, and he’s like, You can fix this, become an ally,” Hart said. “It’s not my dream.”

Hart was referring to CNN anchor Lemon’s previous criticism of Hart’s less than penitent attitude after his Ellen appearance. “Apologizing and moving on does not make the world a better place for people who are gay or people who are transgender,” Lemon had stated. “Being an ally does.” Just hours after the Straight From the Hart episode, however, Lemon reported on CNN Tonight that he had recently discussed the debate with Hart, and that he accepted Hart’s apology as expressed on the radio show.

But the conversation seems to have exhausted Hart. In an appearance on Good Morning America on Wednesday morning, Hart made it clear that he’s definitely not hosting the Oscars and that he would like to put the controversy behind him.

“I’ve addressed it, and I’ve said everything I can possibly say ... I’ve done all I can do,” he told GMA’s Michael Strahan. “If [my apology’s] accepted, great; if it’s not, it’s nothing I can control. ... I’m done with it.”

Hart also emphasized that he feels he’s done all he can do to apologize. “That was done in hopes that people can hear and understand how heartfelt and authentic it was,” he said, apparently referring to his extensive apology on Sirius. “I put out good energy every day ... I love to love ... if that’s received, then great, it means we’ve achieved something,” he said.

“If you can’t see that, then the problem is with you.”

When Strahan challenged Hart on proving that he’s no longer the person who wrote homophobic tweets in the past, Hart pointed out that he has readdressed the old tweets repeatedly since the backlash began.

He also said that the backlash DeGeneres received showed him that the outrage is “endless,” and that he won’t feed the negative energy.

“It’s never going to really end,” he said. “If people choose to continue to let [the backlash] grow, then do what you gotta do.”

Hart said he is looking ahead to filming the upcoming sequel to the Jumanji remake he appeared in in 2017 but that hosting the Oscars “this year” is out of the question.

“I don’t have the time,” he said on GMA, saying there isn’t enough time left to prepare before the Oscars are presented on February 24. “I would like to call myself a perfectionist. If I do something, I want to give it my all, and make sure the production is a great representation of me and my talent. Unfortunately, I can’t do that right now.”

In the meantime, Variety has reported that the Academy will move forward without an Oscars host for the first time in decades, instead focusing on individual presenter segments to carry the evening. Sources told Variety that attempts to backchannel with Hart had been unsuccessful, implying that it was partly due to Hart’s attitude presenting a “brick wall.”

Yet Hart expressed hope on GMA that going forward, people will look at him and see change and progress. “You mature, you change, and you become better,” he said. And while it isn’t “right” at the moment for him to host the Oscars, he seemed optimistic that the cultural conversation might allow him to host in the future.

“The Academy, they’re amazing people,” he said. “It’s hard to predict what can happen.”