An old controversy from 2018 continues to dominate the headlines. Last year, after being announced as the host for the 2019 Academy Awards, comedian Kevin Hart publicly stepped down from the gig when a series of his old homophobic tweets resurfaced. (The Oscars were hostless in 2019, and will be so for a second year in a row, come the 2020 ceremony.)
Hart has since tried to address the issue in a series of statements, appearances, posts and even a Netflix docuseries — and many of his moves have only fanned the flames further.
So what exactly happened? Here’s a complete timeline of the Hart Oscars controversy.
July 2009 — Jan 2011: Kevin Hart sends out a series of homophobic tweets
The tweets that kicked off this national conversation are from nearly a decade ago, when Hart made a number of jokes over the course of two years on his Twitter page about LGBTQ people. Some were aimed around his thoughts about how he would react to potentially having a gay son, in which the comedian said he would break a dollhouse over his head if he saw him playing with it. They also included Hart calling a person’s profile picture “a gay bill board [sic] for AIDS.” The jokes didn’t go unnoticed at the time, but would become a much bigger problem for the star in the years to come as his public profile, and box-office appeal, increased exponentially.
July 2010 — Hart jokes about preventing his son from being gay in his Seriously Funny special
Hart’s jokes were not simply limited to a few comments on Twitter — some of his early stand-up material contained homophobic jokes, including his breakout 2010 comedy special Seriously Funny. In the special, Hart continued one of his previous jokes about his desire to prevent his son from becoming gay. In one bit, Hart said that he saw another boy “grinding” on his son, and in response, he “panicked and knocked them both down.” While he started the joke by saying he was not homophobic, many have since claimed the bit was a classic example of homophobia.
March 2015 — Hart says that “funny is funny” in reference to gay jokes in Get Hard
Fast-forward five years, and Hart has become an international superstar, with far fewer incidents involving homophobic jokes during his time in the public eye. But when then-HitFix reporter Louis Virtel asked Hart if he felt the more innocuous, but still stereotypical gay jokes in his new film Get Hard were outdated, Hart backed himself up. “I said to myself, this is funny,” he said. “And at the end of the day, funny is funny.”
July 2015 — Hart says he would not repeat his gay-son jokes today
After achieving massive success in the film and stand-up industries, Hart was profiled on the cover of Rolling Stone. In the interview, he was asked about past jokes about his son’s “first gay moment,” and while the comedian said that he would not tell those same jokes today, he had a specific reasoning for it. “I wouldn’t tell that joke today, because when I said it, the times weren’t as sensitive as they are now,” he said, making a reference to PC culture. “I think we love to make big deals out of things that aren’t necessarily big deals, because we can. These things become public spectacles. So why set yourself up for failure?”
So are we. pic.twitter.com/DzZaKpdnYW
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) December 5, 2018
December 4, 2018 — Kevin Hart is announced as Oscars host
Flash forward three years to Hart posting an Instagram photo of the Oscars statue, revealing to his fans that he has been tapped as the show’s 2019 host. “I am blown away simply because this has been a goal on my list for a long time….To be able to join the legendary list of host that have graced that stage is unbelievable,” he wrote.
However, Hart and the Academy were almost immediately met with backlash. Without hours, Twitter users began reposting the star’s former tweets and jokes, saying that because he had never apologized for his homophobic jokes, he should therefore not be allowed to host at the Oscars.
December 6, 2018 — Hart posts an Instagram video refusing to apologize
After two days of online scrutiny, Hart finally broke his silence and posted a video to Instagram. In it, he explained that the Academy had delivered an ultimatum: publicly apologize for the tweets, or step down. To the surprise of many, Hart refused to apologize. “I passed on the apology … I’ve addressed this several times. This is not the first time this has come up. I’ve addressed it. I’ve spoken on it. I’ve said where the rights and wrongs were,” he said.
Hart’s statement only led to more online anger, and then sparked a debate over whether or not he owed the LGBTQ community an apology. Some of his fans claimed that he was right to put his foot down, saying that he shouldn’t be expected to apologize over and over again. Critics, though, said they had yet to see evidence of any remorse for his comments at any point.
I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year’s Oscar’s….this is because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists. I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past.
— Kevin Hart (@KevinHart4real) December 7, 2018
I’m sorry that I hurt people.. I am evolving and want to continue to do so. My goal is to bring people together not tear us apart. Much love & appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again.
— Kevin Hart (@KevinHart4real) December 7, 2018
December 7, 2018 — Hart steps down from hosting the Oscars and apologizes
Just one day after posting his Instagram statement, Hart officially announced on his Twitter that he would be stepping down from the event. “I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year’s Oscar’s….this is because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists,” he wrote. The star added what he had said he would not do just a day before: an apology. “I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past … I am evolving and want to continue to do so. My goal is to bring people together not tear us apart.”
January 4, 2019 — Ellen DeGeneres asks Hart to “reconsider” hosting
In the month after Hart stepped down, public debate over his handling of the situation mostly died down as rumors swirled over who might replace him in the gig. That is, until he made an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where the out daytime host called his online critics “haters,” and told him that she wanted him to reconsider hosting the event. Hart said he would take DeGeneres’ suggestion into consideration.
The appearance not only resparked the controversy, but also found DeGeneres receiving criticism from LGBTQ fans, telling her that she did not get to be the moral arbiter on behalf of the community. One of those critics was CNN’s Don Lemon, who went on the air and criticized both Hart and DeGeneres for their handling of the situation. “Apologizing and moving on does not make the world a better place for people who are gay or who are transgender,” Lemon said. “Being an ally does.”
January 7, 2019 — Hart issues a final, formal apology on his radio show
Hart decided to put the issue to bed once and for all during a segment on his SiriusXM radio program, Straight from the Hart. Speaking candidly about the controversy, Hart gave a more full apology for his past actions. “Once again, Kevin Hart apologizes for his remarks that hurt members of the LGBTQ community. I apologize,” he began. “Now we’re in a space where I’m around people of the LGBTQ community, and I’m now aware of how these words make them feel, and why they say ‘That shit hurt because of what I’ve been through’ … I’m riding with you guys. I understand you.” Though Hart did take a moment to add that he wanted the LGBTQ community to be more open to people changing. “If you don’t want to accept people for their change, then where are you trying to get to the equal part?”
January 9, 2019 — Hart confirms he will not host the Oscars, is “done” talking about his past
In an appearance on Good Morning America, Hart fielded questions from anchor Michael Strahan about the controversy, saying that he was finished having this conversation over and over again. “I’m done with it. It gets no more energy from me,” he told the host. “There’s no more conversation about it.” When Strahan asked Hart if he had reconsidered hosting the Oscars, Hart said again that he was done. “I’m not hosting the Oscars this year,” he said. “I don’t want people to think there’s a thing about me and the Academy, because it isn’t.”
January 9, 2019 — Hart appears on Stephen Colbert and says one more thing
Even though Hart said he was “done” talking about this situation, he still had a press tour to go on for his new movie, The Upside, his first semi-dramatic role. So, on Wednesday night, the star appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and once again reiterated that he was done. However, this time Hart gave a little more explanation about his thoughts on the matter, saying that the situation was like an onion: “No matter how many times you keep peeling it back, it’s just endless,” he said. “I apologized, ‘Apologize again!’ I said I apologized before, ‘Apologize after that apology!’ It just keeps going.” The star also shared a light-hearted segment with Colbert about the jokes he would have told at the Oscars had he decided to host, and luckily, they had nothing to do with his current predicament.
Dec. 27, 2019 — Hart drops Netlix docuseries Kevin Hart: Don’t F**k This Up, which addresses the Oscar controversy
In addition to tackling the career influence of his beloved mother and reconciliation with his estranged father, Hart’s six-part docuseries takes on the public scrutiny following a leaked video of his infidelity and the slow-rolling fall-out from the Oscar controversy. In a revealing episode, Hart’s team attempts to coordinate a response to the blowback from the years-old tweets as the comedian explains his reluctance to address the matter in public again. Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, cameras were rolling as the firestorm unfolded, capturing his inner circle’s frustration with how Hart’s reaction is affecting his team and one of Hart’s publicists telling him at the time, “you need to learn how to stop and think,” and saying he needs to take a “humility pill.” In the end, Hart admits, “I missed an opportunity to say simply that I don’t condone any type of violence in any way, shape or form to anyone for being who they are. I f—ed up…. Instead I said, ‘I addressed it.’ I said, ‘I apologized.’ I said, ‘I talked about this already.’ I was just immature.”