Kevin Hart called his forthcoming Oscars gig the “opportunity of a lifetime,” but not everyone is thrilled by the comedian’s hiring.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced late Tuesday that Hart, whose film credits include “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” has been tapped to host the 91st Academy Awards on Feb. 24, 2019.
The announcement brought backlash among a number of journalists and LGBTQ rights advocates, who pointed to Hart’s history of anti-gay jokes and tweets.
BuzzFeed reported Wednesday that Hart, 39, has deleted some of the tweets, which date back to 2010 and 2011 — well before the comedian was a household name. Many, however, were already captured for posterity by Benjamin Lee, a New York–based journalist for The Guardian, among other Twitter users.
In one, Hart described a photo of actor Damien Dante Wayans as looking “like a gay bill board for AIDS.” In another, he suggested he would tell his son, “Stop, that’s gay,” if he caught him playing with a dollhouse and would respond by breaking the toy over the child’s head.
Lee elaborated in a Guardian article published Wednesday, pointing to a segment that appeared in Hart’s 2010 stand-up film, “Seriously Funny,” in which the comedian said, “As a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will.”
“Hart’s obsession with making unfunny, disrespectful and inappropriate jokes about a community he has shown nothing but bile for along with a string of unrepentant responses to any criticism paints him as someone entirely undeserving of a spot on the Oscars stage,” Lee wrote. He went on to call Hart’s hiring “a middle finger up to the LGBT community and a sign that Oscars might no longer be quite as white but they remain aggressively straight.”
It should be noted that the Oscars dealt with a similar controversy before. In 2011, Brett Ratner resigned as the producer of the 84th Academy Awards after a video went viral of him proclaiming “rehearsing is for fags” at an audience Q&A session for his film “Tower Heist.”
Among those to sound off on the news was Billy Eichner. The fellow comedian, who is openly gay, offered a more empathetic stance, tweeting, “I hope Kevin’s thinking has evolved since 2011.”
Asked about the “Seriously Funny” bit in 2015, Hart said he would now avoid such subject matter in his comedy routines.
“I wouldn’t tell that joke today, because when I said it, the times weren’t as sensitive as they are now. I think we love to make big deals out of things that aren’t necessarily big deals, because we can,” he told Rolling Stone’s Jonah Weiner. “These things become public spectacles. So why set yourself up for failure?”
Weiner went a step further Wednesday and tweeted what he said is a segment of the transcript of his interview with Hart that formed the basis of the Rolling Stone article. In it, the comedian appears to strike a defiant tone, saying he “never intended [his tweets] to be disrespectful.”
“I will not defend ignorance,” Hart is quoted as saying. “What I will defend is a point of view.”
Representatives for Hart and the Academy Awards didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. In a pair of tweets early Thursday, however, the comedian recalled a recent conversation he had with his three children. His remarks could be interpreted as a subtle response to the controversy.
UPDATE: 7:15 p.m. — On Thursday evening, Hart appeared to double down on his nonapology in an Instagram post. “Stop looking for reasons to be negative,” the comedian wrote. “If u want to search my history or my past and anger yourselves with what u find that is fine with me.”