Actor and comedian Kevin Hart, who was tapped to host the 2019 Oscars earlier this week, resigned that job late Thursday night after social media sleuths dug up his homophobic tweets from a decade ago.
In an Instagram video, Hart claimed that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had issued an ultimatum: apologize, or lose the gig. Hart initially refused to revisit the issue, which he claimed he had addressed several times in the past. "This is not the first time this has come up," he said. "I've addressed it. I've spoken on it. I've said where the rights and wrongs were."
Hart also criticized those that went looking for such tweets in the first place.
"The same energy that went into finding those old tweets could be the same energy put into finding the response to the questions that have been asked years after years after years," he said.
This was a brave stance; unfortunately, it did not last. At midnight, Hart posted on Twitter that he had stepped down as host. He also offered an apology to the LGBT community.
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
Congrats, social justice lynch mobs: You win again.
Most of the people I saw on Twitter demanding penance from Hart were journalists at generally left-of-center publications, which makes this something of a left-led lynch mob. For comparison, the previous notable social media pile-on—which targeted Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn over his gross child sex jokes—was driven by far-right Twitter personalities Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec. Recall that when Cernovich and Posobiec did this same thing—dig up weird comments from a different era of the internet and force modern corporate PR concerns to do their work—they were accused of launching a bad-faith smear campaign of retaliation. It will be interesting to see whether those who put Hart in this same position are capable of reflecting on the similarities. I'm betting not.
When Roseanne said something horribly offensive about Valerie Jarrett, she was justly fired, in the view of many liberal commentators. But when Sarah Jeong was found to have tweeted constantly about how much she hated white people, this was questionably described as satire, and nothing happened: She got to keep her new gig at The New York Times.
I for one was glad that Jeong survived an attempted social media assassination, because there ought to be some understanding that human beings are more than their worst moments on Twitter. And I hoped that right and left could call a truce on finding reasons to get people fired. Alas, the perpetual outrage machine must be fed.
For what it's worth, Hart's tweets—like Gunn's, Roseanne's, and yes, Jeong's—were bad. It sounds like he had some issues with gay people back in 2010. These issues probably stem from his own insecurities. I assert that with some confidence, because Hart himself admitted as much. He made it part of his comedy routine, in fact. (Not that this matters to the woke crowd: Even comparatively progressive jokes offend certain unreasonable people when the messenger doesn't fit neatly into the requisite category.) Consider this interview Hart did with Rolling Stone in 2015:
In 2010's Seriously Funny, he tells the audience, "One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay. That's a fear. Keep in mind, I'm not homophobic.?.?.?.?Be happy. Do what you want to do. But me, as a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will." This leads into vignettes in which Hart reacts to imagined signs of Hendrix's blossoming homosexuality with interjections of "Stop, that's gay!" Discussing this bit today, Hart says, "It's about my fear. I'm thinking about what I did as a dad, did I do something wrong, and if I did, what was it? Not that I'm not gonna love my son or think about him any differently. The funny thing within that joke is it's me getting mad at my son because of my own insecurities — I panicked. It has nothing to do with him, it's about me. That's the difference between bringing a joke across that's well thought-out and saying something just to ruffle feathers." Even so, he adds, "I wouldn't tell that joke today, because when I said it, the times weren't as sensitive as they are now. 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?"