If you thought we were leaving Kevin Hart’s Oscar hosting saga in 2018, you thought wrong. The comedian appeared on Ellen on Friday (Jan. 4), effectively resurrecting the controversy, and it was a damn mess.
On paper, it seemed like a no-brainer: Sit Hart down with one of the most prominent LGBTQ figures on television, reiterate his apology and have him talk about what he’s learned through this experience. Instead, Hart spent the majority of his time painting himself as a victim, explaining how “trolls” robbed him of his chance to relish in the joy of his latest career accomplishment.
“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. Literally the next morning,” Hart told DeGeneres. “Not even a full 24 hours to glow in the glory of ‘Kevin Hart is hosting this year’s Oscars.’”
He went on to explain that his tweets resurfacing was proof that someone was personally out to get him. Why else would they sift through 40K tweets to find his homophobic statements? (Can someone please tell him how the Twitter search function works?)
“That’s an attack,” Hart said. “That’s a malicious attack on my character. That’s an attack to end me. This was to end all partnerships, all brand relationships, all investment opportunities, studio relationships, my production company and the people who work underneath me. This was to damage the lives that had invested in me. It’s bigger than just the Oscars.”
Rather than taking the time to reiterate that he’s sorry, he points to apologizing “10 years ago,” only mentioning the Get Hard press junket (which was released four years ago, in 2015) as a definite time he addressed the tweets. Well, if this clip is what he’s referring to, let it be clear: Saying “funny is funny” is not an apology for homophobic jokes.
Even more bizarre: DeGeneres, who is regarded as a lesbian icon, doesn’t check Hart or encourage him to speak about what he’s learned from this controversy. Instead, she refers to Hart’s critics as “haters” and reveals that she’s convinced the Oscars to take Hart back if he’s willing.
“There are so many haters out there. Whatever is going on on the Internet, don’t pay attention,” DeGeneres said. “That’s a small group of people being very, very loud. We’re a big group of people who love you and want you to host the Oscars.”
She’s right: The LGBTQ community is a minority group. And historically, they’ve been very loud in the face of injustice. But to reduce them to “haters” is, at best ignorant, and dangerous at worst. And in blaming the critics, they never address the real problem: Why do his old tweets follow him around like a ghost from the past?
An obvious reason: His apologies (that no one on the Internet can find, by the way) don’t stick. In other words, he hasn’t said anything memorable to absolve himself of tweeting that he’d break a doll house over his son’s head if he caught him playing with it or that someone looked “like a gay bill board [sic] for AIDS.”
Even his apology in the wake of this Oscars drama was forced. Not only did he wait until he stepped down from the gig, but he finally posted a limp apology a day after receiving even more backlash for an Instagram video in which he said he had grown and would not look back at “the negative.”
Watching his Ellen interview, it’s clear that Hart doesn’t quite understand why LGBTQ critics are irritated. If he did, he wouldn’t take issue with having to apologize again — several times if he had to — to ensure people see that he’s changed. Instead he’ll say things like “I wouldn’t say that now,” without demonstrating that he understands why he shouldn’t have said it in the first place.
If Hart wants to move on without constant backlash, he needs to prioritize clearing the air in a genuine way. Calling critics “trolls” and “haters” diminishes the seriousness of his tweets, and openly focusing on how this backlash could affect other parts of his career is insensitive. Instead, he could partner with a LGBTQ nonprofit to raise funds, or speak out against homophobia.
When it comes to this cycle of backlash, one thing is clear: If Kevin Hart isn’t willing to make a sincere apology, he should prepare for another round of controversy anytime something big happens in his career.