by Natalie Finn | Mon., Sep. 18, 2017 1:19 PM
No matter how many famous men have failed at it beforehand, there's always another famous man who thinks that he will prove the exception to the rule.
Kevin Hart, who a few months ago laughed off a report that he had cheated on his pregnant wife, ended up eating humble pie in front of millions this past weekend after, according to him, someone threatened to expose his wrongdoings if he didn't pay up.
Not having a whole talk show to 'fess up, as David Letterman did when he turned his admission of cheating on his longtime partner (whom he had just married months beforehand) into a pop culture Moment after he was targeted in an extortion attempt in 2009, Hart shared a video on social media in which he admitted to making "a bad error in judgment." (He never explicitly admits to cheating.)
While fans were content to let Hart and wife Eniko Parrish drive the story earlier this summer, Twitter wasn't quite so forgiving, either in July (when a photo of him sitting in the back of a car with an unidentified woman was reported as damning evidence of cheating) or on Saturday as Hart became a trending topic and reactionary GIFs peppered people's assumptions that he'd been caught red-handed, er... exercising bad judgment. Many were quick to point out that Hart was rumored to have cheated on his first wife, Torrei Hart, with Parrish, and therefore, what could you expect?
Well, we know by now not to expect celebrities to be angels, particularly the male ones (though surely plenty of women step out too, it just seems to be a more popular pastime among the men), but surely Hart realized back in July that the walls were closing in on him with regard to his "mistakes." Yet not everyone can be a Letterman. That level of witty, self-deprecating candor was a once-in-a-generation admission of guilt. But even Letterman may not have been Letterman until someone tried to blackmail him. His would-be extortionist ended up being sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty to second-degree grand larceny.
A rep for Hart tells E! News that someone tried to set up the Ride Along star in a failed extortion attempt and authorities are investigating, so that's all they can say. TMZ reports that the so-called evidence in question includes some video clips that imply sexual activity occurred but are inconclusive as far as positively identifying Hart as a participant.
Alberto Rodriguez/MTV1415/Getty Images for MTV
But Hart, to avoid adding more insult to injury, opted to nip the story in the bud and go for the public apology to his loved ones.
"I'm at a place in my life where I feel like I have a target on my back and because of that I should make smart decisions, and recently I didn't," he said in his video. "You know, I'm not perfect. I'm not going to sit up here and say that I am or claim to be in any way, shape or form. And I made a bad error in judgement and put myself in an environment where only bad things can happen, and they did. And doing that I know that I am going to hurt the people I'm closest to, who I've talked to and apologized to, being my wife and my kids."
He continued, "And you know, it's a sh--ty moment. It's a sh--ty moment when you know you're wrong and there's no excuses for your wrong behavior. At the end of the day, man, I just simply got to do better. But I'm also not going to allow a person to have financial gain off of my mistakes, and in this particular situation, that's what was attempted. I said I'd rather 'fess up to my mistakes."
Agonizing. Of course anyone trying to blackmail or otherwise extort money from somebody else is in the wrong, and perhaps a crime has been committed (that's for law enforcement to figure out), but on a civilian level, Hart made his own bed.
From Tiger Woods to Jay-Z, Chris Rock to Ozzy Osbourne, Eddie Cibrian to Dean McDermott, Bill Clinton to Arnold Schwarzenegger, celebrities of all magnitudes inevitably get outed when they cheat. They don't necessarily ever admit to it, nor is there always incontrovertible evidence (such as the appearance of another human being), but the stories get out there—even if they're denied and destined to exist as only "rumors" for posterity. And even if the supermarket-tabloid-and-Twitter-scanning public somehow never becomes the wiser, there's no way the partner being cheated on remains in the dark.
"Some Russian teenager, then a masseuse in England, our masseuse [in the U.S.], and then our cook," Sharon Osbourne provided a laundry list of Ozzy's affairs to London's Telegraph recently. "He had women in different countries. Basically, if you're a women giving Ozzy either a back rub or a trolley of food, God help you." The roller-coaster couple, who've been married for 35 years, briefly separated last year after Sharon found out about yet another one of her husband's extramarital paramours, but they've since reconciled. They even renewed their wedding vows this year.
Not all wives or girlfriends prove to be so forgiving (or so willing to at least try to forgive and make it work), but plenty of couples get past it. Of the aforementioned cads, in addition to Ozzy, Jay-Z, McDermott and Clinton are all still married. (As is Cibrian, to the woman he cheated on his first wife with.)
Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Time will tell what happens between Hart and Parrish, who are expecting a son together. She's been quiet on social media since Thursday, her last Instagram post a video of her working out, next to which she notes that she's 31 weeks along and feeling great.
As for Hart's fans, he isn't a celebrity whose image was built upon him having a pristine history—rather, his candor about past screw-ups and his hard-fought journey to the top of the Hollywood heap has forever been a part of the compact, ragingly successful Kevin Hart package. All has been fodder for his stand-up and interviews, not to mention his book.
"The fans already understand there is a pattern and have accepted him," celebrity branding expert Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants, tells E! News. "Certain advertisers and certain potential partners may be concerned in the short term, but these things generally don't have a long life span unless things get really ugly." Schiffer adds, "It really will depend on how he manages the situation with his wife. If things are okay...then I think in six months this will be a non-issue. I think his fans have accepted that these are the facts and it's baked into his brand."
AP Photo/L.G. Patterson
In his memoir I Can't Make This Up: Life Lessons, Hart wrote about his past alcohol abuse and admitted to cheating on Torrei (not with Parrish, but in general over the course of their eight-year marriage and 12-year relationship) and getting aggressive enough during several fights that he ended up spending a night in jail.
"Brick by brick, I'd built an unstable house with Torrei, one that was doomed to collapse," Hart recalled. "But the experience enabled us to build great homes afterwards for our kids, our partners and ourselves."
While out promoting the book at BookCon in June, he said during his appearance, "I'm not afraid of being honest. I'm an open book." He also said, "I'm very good at finding a positive out of every negative."
Sipa via AP Images
And there's the rub. The fact that Hart obviously didn't take at least that one lesson he learned in the past to heart.
Last month, fans called out Parrish on Twitter after she posted on Instagram on her first wedding anniversary about having been with Kevin for eight years. Meanwhile, Hart and Torrei divorced in 2011, six years ago.
In various replies to commenters that she later deleted, Parrish fired back, "Their marriage was broken way before I came in the picture.. They were separated living in separate homes. I was never a secret." In another later-deleted reply, Parrish wrote that Torrei started the rumor herself about Hart cheating on her with his future second wife "because she wanted to play the 'victim.'" "I never wrecked any home," she wrote.
"Numbers don't lie. Dates don't lie at the end of the day," Torrei told TMZ when a cameraman caught up with her in West Hollywood after Parrish's eventful Instagram exchange. As the mother of Hart's two kids, daughter Heaven and son Hendrix, she's known Parrish for years, has even spent time with her on occasion (such as when Hart got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame), and, for all intents and purposes, it appears that she and Hart have been successfully co-parenting for some time.
Hart weighed in via video, saying, "I'm at a point where I can't even be shocked anymore. All I do is laugh, man. I had a person tell me what they felt was factual information about me while they were talking to me."
Schiffer deemed Saturday's apology "raw and authentic," albeit late because he should've just come clean in the first place. But "he's going to come out of it intact and his movie career will continue." Even if his wife leaves him, Schiffer added, Hart's career won't likely suffer.
The funnyman, who after topping Forbes' 2016 list of top-earning comedians with $87.5 million fell to No. 6 in 2017 with "only" $32.5 million because he whittled his touring schedule way down, is in Georgia now shooting his next movie, Night School. The show does indeed go on.
"I'm at a point now where I've grown tremendously as a man. I'm smarter. I'm more educated in the realm of business and what goes into the entertainment," Hart told Esquire last fall. "That's what I think people don't understand—that term 'show business' is real. It's a business and the more that you develop and the more that you learn it, the more powerful you have the potential of becoming. I'm learning it inside and out, and hopefully putting myself in a position to become a force to be reckoned with for quite some time."
He added, "Your fan base can only grow if there's a strong sense of authenticity to go behind it. I have that. I'm not fake or phony. This isn't a façade. What you see is what you get. The personality of Kevin Hart is the same personality that you think it is from what you've seen on TV, in stand-up, in interviews. I don't change. I'm a good person."
This isn't to say that, aside from the mess he has to clean up on the home front, that Hart isn't a "good person." In the wake of Hurricane Harvey he donated $25,000 and launched a fundraising challenge, forwarding requests to give back to celebrity pals such as Dwayne Johnsonand urging them to do the same. In addition to wanting to entertain the masses and help them forget their troubles, Hart truly has studiously tried to pass along his own brand of hard-won wisdom; lessons learned from his late mother, to whom he attributes his success; and tales of his indomitable work ethic. He prides himself on being a good, hands-on dad, unlike his own father was when he was a kid.
Rather, Kevin Hart is human.
But no matter how smart of a businessman he's become, and how devoted a dad he is or however much he recommits to not screwing up his second marriage, if he hasn't truly figured out by now that celebrities—though they get away with more than most—don't really get away with certain things...then he's also choosing to play dumb.
—Additional reporting by Beth Sobol
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