Actor and comedian Kevin Hart has stepped down as host of the 91st Academy Awards due to outcry over past homophobic tweets.
The tweets, made between 2009 and 2011, included derogatory language about LGBTQ people and disparaging comments about sexuality.
As reported by the LGBTQ website Queerty, Hart began deleting several of those tweets shortly after being named as the host for the Oscars, which kick off at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24.
For example, in one of the tweets, which has since been deleted, Hart wrote: “Yo if my son comes home & try’s (sic) 2 play with my daughters (sic) doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head & say n my voice ‘stop that’s gay.'”
Other tweets included: “@dwadeofficial u should ask the question like this, how many ‘gay’ men sweat when they wear dress shirts because real men don’t lmao p.s fag” and “Why does @DamienDW profile pic look like a gay bill board for AIDS……..Boom I’m on fire tonight.”
Hart’s selection, announced on Tuesday, was almost immediately met with opposition from LGBTQ activists on social media due to past jokes he made in some of his stand-up specials, including his purported “biggest fear” that his son might be gay.
Hart previously told Rolling Stone in a 2015 interview that he wouldn’t make the same joke again, not because it was homophobic but because audiences have become too “sensitive.”
When LGBTQ advocates first raised objections to the selection of Hart, he flatly refused to apologize and argued that he had “evolved” since making those comments.
“I swear, man, our world is becoming beyond crazy,” Hart said in a video posted to his Instagram account on Wednesday.
“My team calls me, ‘Oh my God, Kevin, this world is upset about tweets you did years ago,'” he added. “Oh my God. Guys, I’m almost 40 years old, if you don’t believe people change, grow evolve as the get older, I don’t know what to tell you. If you want to hold people in a position where they always have to justify or explain their past, then do you. I’m the wrong guy, man.”
Hart also wrote in a caption underneath the video: “Stop looking for reasons to be negative. Stop searching for reasons to be angry…I swear I wish you guys could see/feel/understand the mental place that I am in. I am truly happy people.”
Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, tweeted on Wednesday that Hart had “a rare opportunity to take responsibility, teach people in this moment, & send a message to LGBTQ youth that they matter & deserve dignity & respect.”
“You say you’ve grown. Show us,” Griffin tweeted. “Make amends for hurtful things you’ve said & affirm LGBTQ people.”
.@kevinhart4real you have a rare opportunity to take responsibility, teach people in this moment, & send a message to LGBTQ youth that they matter & deserve dignity & respect. You say you’ve grown. Show us. Make amends for hurtful things you've said & affirm LGBTQ people. https://t.co/saca7Oe0nS
— Chad Griffin (@ChadHGriffin) December 7, 2018
But the building criticism and negative press attention apparently became too much for Hart, who took to Twitter on Thursday to announce his decision to step down as the host of the awards show.
“[I] do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists,” he wrote. “I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past 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.”
According to CNN, Hart made another post on Instagram explaining that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had asked him to apologize or they would find another host.
But he chose not to issue a formal apology and step down instead, adding that he did not want to assist in “feeding the Internet trolls.”
“The reason why I passed is because I’ve addressed this several times,” Hart said. “I’m not going to continue to go back and tap into the days of old when I’ve moved on and I’m in a completely different space in my life.”
But the LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD argued that Hart should have been allowed to continue hosting the show, which could potentially have started worthwhile conversations about the dignity of LGBTQ people.
“Kevin Hart shouldn’t have stepped down; he should have stepped up,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “Hart’s apology to LGBTQ people is an important step forward, but he missed a real opportunity to use his platform and the Oscars stage to build unity and awareness. We would still welcome that conversation with him. The Academy has recently made significant strides in featuring diverse talent onstage and they should now double down on that commitment as they look for a new host.”