Los Angeles – US comedian and actor Kevin Hart said late Thursday he would not host the 91st Academy Awards ceremony after he was criticized for past homophobic comments on Twitter.
“I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year’s Oscar’s [sic],” Hart tweeted on Friday. “I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past,” he added, using a standard acronym for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
Hart’s controversial tweets, posted between 2009 and 2011 and since deleted, used homophobic slurs and claimed gay men were not “real men.”
In one of them, posted in 2011, the comedian wrote that if his son tried to play with his daughter’s doll house he would “break it over his head” and say “stop that’s gay.”
Homophobia has also featured in Hart’s stand-up routines – for example in a 2010 comedy special.
“One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay,” he said. “I’m not homophobic, I have nothing against gay people… But me, being a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will.”
Earlier on Thursday, Hart said the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had asked him to apologize for the tweets but that he had no intention of doing so.
“I chose to pass, to pass on the apology. The reason I passed is I’ve addressed this several times,” the actor said in a video posted on Instagram. He said he had moved on since posting tweets containing homophobic language.
“I’m not going to do it, man. I’m going to be me. I’m going to stand my ground,” he said. “Regardless, Academy, I’m thankful and appreciative of the opportunity. If it goes away, no harm, no foul.”
Hours earlier, Hart had already addressed the outcry over the tweets, which he reportedly deleted after the announced he would host the awards.
In 2016 LGBT media monitoring group Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) singled out Hart for starring in “Get Hard,” a film which the group said contains “more blatant and incessant gay panic humour than we have seen in a Hollywood film in years.”
Hart would have been just one of a handful of African Americans to host the Academy Awards, considered the accused of “whitewashing,” following on from stars including Chris Rock, Whoopi Goldberg and Sammy Davis Jr.
The 91st Academy Awards will be held at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on February 24. (dpa)