Rants and Raves
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Rants and Raves

The Kevin Hart Oscar Controversy Isn’t About Political Correctness, Nor is it a Conspiracy

Kevin Hart at the Oscars (Copyright: AMPAS)

[Author’s Note: This story was originally published on 12/7/18, but additional content has been added below the original article reflecting recent developments. I have dated the two sections for clarity]


As an awards season enthusiast, I was eager to see who would be tapped to host the 91st Annual Academy Awards. I was really hoping they wouldn’t pick someone predictable, like a straight white male who hosts a late night talk show (sorry, Jimmy). Ideally, I was hoping they would get someone from a demographic that typically doesn’t get offered high-profile hosting duties and perhaps someone actually related to the film industry in a meaningful way.

When they picked big screen comedy star Kevin Hart, I was fine with it. Even a bit optimistic. Admittedly, I have never actually seen a movie with Kevin Hart in it, but he seems funny and high energy enough to keep the show lively and is well-known and well-liked enough to please audiences.

When I found out that Kevin Hart had made numerous homophobic comments in the past, I was unsurprised. Countless straight male comedians continue to rely heavily on the fear, disgust, and general bewilderment they experience regarding LGBT people for laughs and are very rarely taken to task for it.

What did surprise me was that the backlash spread as quickly and intensely as it did. Perhaps I was being cynical, but I didn’t think my community’s outrage would mean much in the face of a popular superstar and a Hollywood institution. But nevertheless, Kevin Hart stepped down after being told he had to apologize for his comments. (Confusingly, he promptly provided an apology to the LGBT community right after saying he was stepping down because he refused to make an apology for his comments.)

The social media outrage was fast and furious. “People are too sensitive.” “People need to get over it.” “People need to realize that people can change.” “If anyone who has ever said something offensive is off-limits to host the Oscars, they are never going to find anyone.” “Political correctness has gone too far.” “You people can’t take a joke.” “How many times must Kevin Hart apologize?”

As is so often the case, the hotheaded Tweeters and reactionary talking heads missed the point. Kevin Hart’s comments weren’t framed as a joke and they certainly weren’t funny. They were an admission of deeply held prejudices against LGBT people; the types of prejudices that often have tragic consequences. Maybe he has grown as a person and has changed his views, but his initial statement about the controversy was a narcissistic, tone-deaf, non-apology that did little to indicate much in the way of personal growth.

It was actually that statement that sealed his fate, not the resurfaced homophobic comments. Even Sarah Kate Ellis, the President of Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), was hoping he would just apologize rather than step down. He had the opportunity to take responsibility for his past comments and he declined it. And as a result, there were consequences (, who many on social media also ludicrously tried to turn into a free speech martyr).

The facts are these. LGBT youth are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youth (1) and family rejection is a large contributor to this disparity. More than one in four LGBT people report that an immediate family member has stopped speaking to them or ended their relationship with them due to their sexual orientation (2). LGBT people who experience high levels of family rejection are a staggering 8.5 times more likely to attempt suicide in their lifetime than those who experience low levels of family rejection (3).

The president of GLAAD was right. There was a way for everyone to win in the Kevin Hart situation. He could have said, “When I said I would respond with hostility and violence if I caught my son doing something I perceived as ‘gay,’ I was wrong. I have changed my views.” Instead, he blamed his detractors (“take your negative energy and put it into something destructive”) and praised himself (“I am in love with the man that I am becoming”).

He made the wrong choice.

The Academy, too, had a choice. They could kowtow to a powerful A-lister’s ego or they could send a message to LGBT youth that they are worthy of love and acceptance.

They made the right choice.



The Kevin Hart Oscar hosting controversy came and went quickly. All of the sudden, it was everywhere and within 48 hours it was nowhere. Swift and (in my opinion) correct action was taken by the Academy. They demanded Kevin Hart apologize for his homophobic comments or else he would have to step down as host. Hart defiantly refused in a tone deaf statement that included him stepping down and then confusingly giving the apology he said he refused to give.

Even before today’s controversial episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, in which the longtime LGBT icon expressed a vociferous defense of Hart, I could tell this story was not over. On December 31st, I saw stating that Kevin Hart’s popularity was undiminished by the Oscar controversy, citing results from a company that gathers “consumer approval” data on celebrities. On January 2nd, I read noting how unusual it is that there is still no host this close to the ceremony.

I sensed Kevin Hart would come back into the conversation, but I certainly did not expect the conversation to be reignited like this.

On today’s episode of her eponymous talk show, Ellen DeGeneres welcomed Hart onto her talk show. She brought him out shortly into the episode and personally greeted him with an extended standing ovation. With the exception of a couple of gentle jabs about his height and physique, she let him do his self-serving shtick as he did a bit about blacking out on New Year’s Eve and then patted himself on the back for the (admittedly very generous) Christmas gifts he gave his staff. Abruptly, Ellen said something like “When we get back we are going to talk about the Oscars and straighten this thing out because you should be hosting the Oscars.” Cut to commercial.

When the show returned from break, Hart gave a 7-minute well-rehearsed monologue. He started off by discussing how it has always been his dream to host the Oscars and how upset he was that the tweets resurfaced the following day. He then reiterated that he apologized for these things years ago, that he does not “have a homophobic bone” in his body, and that 10 years of his growth and apologies have been ignored. For a brief moment, he convincingly apologies and says the words “I was wrong” and notes a longstanding commitment to not making “jokes like that” anymore.

If it had ended there, things could have been salvaged. There was finally a seemingly genuine moment of remorse for the world to see.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t help himself from digging himself an even bigger hole — and Ellen was there with a shovel.

When she returned from the commercial break, she briefly plugged his new movie and then dropped the news that she called the Academy earlier that day and begged them to re-instate him as host. The audience, which had been deadly silent for nearly 10 minutes, burst into cheers and applause. She then launched into a monologue of her own, one in which she denounces his detractors as “haters” and a “very small group of people on the Internet.”

And then the true Kevin Hart jumped out. “That was a malicious attack on my character.” He continued, “I have heard about things like this happening but this was my first time in the fire. This was done to destroy me.” He then denigrates those who are “finding success” in destroying him and the livelihood. (It remains unclear to me who exactly became famous or made money from Kevin Hart’s resurfaced homophobic tweets.)

“Someone has to take a stand against the trolls!” Hart says in a rousing moment. “But they are going to win if you don’t host the Oscars,” DeGeneres replied emphatically. “Host the Oscars. It’s something you have always dreamed of doing. It’s something you have a right to do.” (The very idea that any job, let alone an elite one like hosting the Oscars, is something that any particular individual is entitled to is a whole other conversation that I do not have the time or mental energy to address.)

They then transitioned to talking about his new film The Upside with Bryan Cranston. I turned it off. I couldn’t take anymore. And it was not that I was enraged by Hart. It was because — and I truly never thought I would say this — I was enraged by Ellen.

The moment she opened her mouth to defend him, Ellen DeGeneres made a choice. A very bad choice. The bad choice wasn’t that she accepted Kevin Hart’s apology. She has every right to do that. She certainly knows him better than I do and is in a better position to judge his character. And the bad choice wasn’t that she encouraged Kevin Hart to return as Oscars host. Again, you do you Ellen.

The bad choice was that she diminished the voices of all of those people (many LGBT) who expressed discomfort with selecting someone to host the Oscars (which, it should be noted, is disproportionately adored by the LGBT community) who made several comments revealing deeply held homophobic beliefs. As a reminder, the offending comments were not jokes, but rather statements about how he would physically attack his young son if he showed any signs of gender nonconformity or homosexual tendencies.

The truth is, what happened to Kevin Hart was not the result of a coordinated attack from Russian bots or a lone angry blogger seeking to make a name for himself by denigrating a well-liked celebrity. It was people like me, people who care about the mental health of LGBT youth, who were disgusted by the homophobic comments, and question whether he ever genuinely made amends. Sure there were some people who took a “hard pass” on him hosting the Oscars regardless of whether he apologized. I wasn’t one of them. Had he handled it better, I would have welcomed him with open arms. But he didn’t handle it well. He got arrogant and entitled and defensive.

And today, he somehow made it worse. The fact that someone reminded people about quotes he made publicly and questioned whether someone who made such comments was someone we wanted to put on a pedestal is not reflective of a coordinated attack. It’s a legitimate question. And rather than say, “You know what, I really shouldn’t have said those things and I’m committed to being an ally,” he saw it as an act of warfare. In doing so he showed himself as entitled at best and deluded at worst.

I do not really care one way or the other about Kevin Hart. I have still never seen a movie he was in (not necessarily on purpose). But like many LGBT people, I have a deep affection for Ellen. To see her dismiss my concerns about his comments (which, one more time for those in the back, was not a “gay joke” but a threat against a child should they express their gender in a nontraditional way) as a cruel, malicious, coordinated attack on a wonderful man was beyond disappointing.

Just as Ellen forgave Kevin Hart, I’m willing to forgive Ellen. But unlike Kevin Hart, she will actually have to actually earn it.

I will be blogging all throughout awards season, so follow me on and/or if you want to stay up to date on how things progress.


  1. Kann et al. (2016)

2. Mallory, Brown, & Conron (2018)

3. The Family Acceptance Project (2009)



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Passionate cinephile. Music lover. Classic TV junkie. Awards season blogger. History buff. Avid traveler. Mental health and social justice advocate.