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Kevin Hart is out as Oscars host amid controversy over homophobic jokes

The comedian was announced as the host for the 2019 Academy Awards on Tuesday.

WSJ Tech D.Live
Kevin Hart appears at the WSJ Tech D.Live event in November.
Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for The Wall Street Journal and WSJ. Magazine
Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

Kevin Hart has stepped down as the host of the 2019 Oscars — just two days after he was announced for the gig.

Late on Thursday night, Hart announced on Twitter that he would be stepping down, shortly after he posted a video on Instagram saying that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had issued him an ultimatum: Apologize for past homophobic jokes, or lose the job. In the Instagram video, Hart insisted that he would not apologize, because he had previously addressed homophobic tweets and standup jokes that he made from 2009 through 2011.

“I’ve moved on, and I’m in a complete different space in my life,” Hart said in the video. “You feed internet trolls, you reward them. I’m not gonna do it.”

Yet the tweet in which Hart announced his exit from the Oscars featured an apology to the LGBTQ community — exactly what Hart claims the Academy asked him to provide.

Criticism of Hart’s past jokes began almost immediately after he was announced as the 2019 Oscars host on Tuesday, December 4. At first, the criticism centered on a 2011 standup routine, in which Hart said that whenever his then-3-year-old son would have a “gay moment,” he had to “nip it in the bud.” Similar jokes surfaced on Twitter, where fear of having a gay child was a consistent theme for the comedian.

As backlash brewed, Hart clearly took notice; on Thursday, December 6, BuzzFeed reported that the comedian had deleted some of his old tweets, including one that read, “Yo if my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my daughters doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head & say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay.”

And some observers seemed to believe that since the tweets were relatively old, Hart would be able to continue as Oscars host with an apology. His refusal to issue one — despite his apparent excitement at being selected for the hosting job — puts the Academy back at square one in a year when it’s having a hard time finding a host.

There’s surprisingly recent precedent for this. In 2011, producer Brett Ratner was named the producer for the 2012 Oscars ceremony, but he was canned after saying “rehearsal is for fags” in a Q&A after a screening of his 2011 film Tower Heist. Host Eddie Murphy, who agreed to host at the behest of Ratner, also left, and longtime host Billy Crystal stepped into the void. (He was pretty terrible.)

The shrinking ratings of the Oscar telecast in recent years have often been blamed on the Academy’s failure to find a host who connects with the TV audience. Yet its choice of host almost never corresponds to the show’s ratings successes (or lack thereof). Instead, the movies nominated tend to have a stronger correlation to how many people ultimately end up watching.

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