Ellen DeGeneres Begs Kevin Hart to Host the 2019 Oscars

The comedian says resurfaced homophobic tweets were part of an "attack to end me"

By Zach Johnson Jan 04, 2019 12:15 PMTags
Kevin Hart, TodayNathan Congleton/NBC

Ellen DeGeneres is on Kevin Hart's side.

The daytime talk show host played peacemaker between the comedian and The Academy Friday, giving Hart a full hour to promote his new movie, The Upside, and defend his decision to step down from hosting the 2019 Oscars. Speaking without interruption for nearly six minutes, Hart told her it was "unreal" to be invited to host the award show live on ABC Feb. 24.

"There's a lot of goals that I have on my vision board. There's so many things I want to do I check off as they get done, and Oscars was up there. Oscars was one of the highest of highs, simply because there hasn't been a lot of African Americans that have been able to do it; I would have been the fourth. So, to get the moment, celebrate the moment—'Oh, my God! I can't believe it's happen!'—and then 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! Not even a full 24 hours to glow in the glory of 'Kevin Hart Is Hosting This Year's Oscars,'" the comic complained. "When it happened, my first thought is, 'I'm going to ignore it. I'm going to ignore it because it's 10 years old. This is stuff I've addressed. I've talked about this. This isn't new. I've addressed it! I've apologized for it. I'm not going to pay it any mind.'"

"Because [when] we feed into that stuff, you only add more fuel to the fire. 'I'm going to leave it alone.' Another day goes by, the fuel is now growing. This fire is angry. It's all over the place. Now, the headlines are starting to change. The headlines are 'Kevin Hart Refuses to Apologize for Homophobic Tweets From the Past.' The word 'Again' was left out. Everybody took those headlines and started to run with it," the comedian continued. "So now, the slander on my name is all homophobia. Now, I'm a little upset. I'm a little upset because I know who I am."

"I know I don't have a homophobic bone in my body. I know that I've addressed it. I know that I've apologized. I know that within my apologies I've taken 10 years to put my apology to work. I've yet to go back to that version of the immature version of the comedian that once was. I've moved on. I'm a grown man. I'm cultured. I'm manufactured. I'm a guy that understands now," Hart said. "I looked at life through a different lens, and because of that, I live it a different way."

"So now, I'm kind of upset because these 10 years are just being ignored. They're being brushed past. Nobody is saying, 'Guys, this is 10 years.' No headlines are saying, '10 Years Ago, He Apologized.' Nobody's finding the apologies. Nobody is finding the footage from where I had to address it. I had to address it when I did Get Hard promo with Will Ferrell because of my joke that I had about my son; I had to address those tweets in 2012 in a very, very heavy junket where I was asked questions and asked questions about homophobia based on those tweets; and I had to address it and apologize and say I understand what those words do and how they hurt," the actor told DeGeneres. "I understand why people would be upset, which is why I made the choice to not use them anymore. I don't joke like that anymore because that was wrong." He was "just looking for laughs," he added, "and I was stupid. I don't do that anymore."

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"To be put in a position where I was given an ultimatum—'Kevin, apologize or we're going to have to find another host'—when I was given that ultimatum, this is now becoming like a cloud. What was once the brightest star and brightest light ever just got real dark. The Oscars is no longer about Kevin Hart stepping on that stage and taking an intense night where people are so uptight and making it loose and fun; that's my reason for doing it. I'm going to bring fun to the Oscars. I'm going to make the Oscars fun. Now, all of a sudden, it's a little darker, because the conversation is about me hosting the Oscars. The conversation is about Kevin Hart's tweets from 10 years ago and homophobia. I don't want to step on that stage and make that night about me and my past when you have people that have worked hard to step on that stage for the first time and receive an award. I'm now taking away from all those moments because the night is focused on something else now. That's how I see it! Because I saw it like that, I said I would much rather step down and apologize again—while stepping down. 'Once again, I'm sorry if these words hurt. I'm sorry!' But either my apology is accepted or it isn't. Either I can move forward, or I can't," Hart lamented. "But you can't grow as a person without mistakes."

Noting he's not "perfect," the 39-year-old comedian told DeGeneres, "I have made several mistakes, and I embrace them all. I'm a better man today because of it. In this case, I just said I'm going to walk away because I felt like it was a conversation that was just going to continue and continue and continue. I would much rather say I'm sorry again and walk away...I don't want to have to have this conversation anymore, because I know who I am. I'm not that guy."

"I know you're not that guy," DeGeneres said, "because I know you."

DeGeneres then revealed she actually lobbied for Hart to still host the ceremony.

"You called me right when it happened and said, 'I'm going to talk to you about it. I'm not going to say anything 'til I'm on your show,' she said. "I called The Academy today, because I really want you to host the Oscars. I was so excited when I heard that they asked you. I thought it was an amazing thing and how important it was and how it was a dream. So, I called them. I said, 'Kevin's on. I have no idea if he wants to come back and host, but what are your thoughts?' And they were like, 'Oh my, God! We want him to host. We feel like maybe he misunderstood or it was handled wrong or maybe we said the wrong thing, but we want him to host.' The Academy is saying, 'What can we do to make this happen?' And I'm saying to you, as one of the smartest people I know, one of the funniest people I know...what we're going to get to see onstage with you hosting the Oscars is sophistication, class, hilarity and you growing as a person. Because most people would say, 'I'm walking away. I'm not going back. I'm going to go back and forth.'"

"But for you to be the bigger man, for you to say, 'I understand and I'm not going to pay attention?' There are so many haters out there. Whatever is going on the internet, don't pay attention to them. That's a small group of people being very, very loud," she said, offering sympathy. "We are a huge group of people who love you and want to see you host the Oscars."

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Though he was appreciative, Hart wasn't so easily convinced.

"There's a flip side," he said. "On my side, openly I say, 'I'm wrong for my past words.' I said it. I understand that. I know that. My kids know when their dad messes up, I'm in front of it because I want to be an example, so they know what to do. In this case, it's tough for me—because it was an attack. This wasn't an accident. This wasn't a coincidence. It wasn't a coincidence that the day after I received the job that tweets just somehow manifested from 2008. Now, I don't know who follows me or who doesn't, [but] I'm on social media every day. I've got over 40,000 tweets. To go through 40,000 tweets to get back to 2008? That's an attack. That's a malicious attack on my character. That's an attack to end me. That's not an attack to just stop the Oscars. This is what I want people to understand: That's an attack to end me."

Stopping himself from getting "too emotional," Hart said this was his "first time in the fire."

"This was to destroy me! This was to end all partnerships. All brand relationships! All investment opportunities, studio relationships, my production company and the people that work underneath me! This was to damage the lives that have been investing in me! It's bigger than just the Oscars. It's about the individuals that are out there now that are finding success in damage. They're finding success in damaging your quote-unquote celebrity. Now, if you go back and I don't have a word, I don't have a bond or I don't have anything to stand on, I'm not going right back into the place where the people that came after me want me to go," the wealthy comedian argued. "Somebody has to take stand against the quote-unquote trolls. You have to!"

"They're going to win if you don't host the Oscars," DeGeneres said. "Then they win!"

Making a final plea for him to reconsider, DeGeneres told Hart, "They can't destroy you, because you have too much talent. No one can do that. And for them to stop you from your dream, from what you wanted to do, from what you have a right to do and from what you should be doing, it's why they haven't found another host. I think they were secretly hoping that you would come back—and I'm praying that this happens. As I said to you earlier, I think it's perfect that this happened, because there needs to be a conversation about homophobia. Whatever [was] brought up and whoever was trying to hurt you, it brought up you reminding people that you're a bigger person, that you've already apologized. You're apologizing again."

"As a gay person...I am sensitive to all of that. And I talked to you about this. And you have already expressed that it's not being educated on the subject, not realizing how dangerous those words are, not realizing how many kids are killed for being gay or beaten up every day. You have grown. You have apologized. You are apologizing again right now. You've done it," DeGeneres, a two-time Oscars host, told Hart. "Don't let those people win. Host the Oscars."

In the end, Hart promised he'd consider the idea. "You have put a lot of things on my mind. I know where our relationship stands, so leaving here, I promise you I'm evaluating this conversation. This is a conversation I needed to have. I'm glad that I had it here, and I'm glad that it was as authentic and real as I could have hoped that it would be," he said. "Let me assess, just to sit in this space and really think—and you and I will talk before anything else."