Getty ImagesJohn Lamparski
Can someone hand Kevin Hart a hammer so he can get off the cross he’s nailed himself to? Over a controversy he not only created but has now sustained for over a month?
It should not have been difficult for the comedian, actor, and embittered non-host of the upcoming Oscars to shut it down. When his past homophobic behavior was exposed in light of the initial announcement about his involvement at the 91st Academy Awards, there was an easy and obvious solution: offer an apology. It’s not hard.
But Hart instead played the victim, complaining about people bringing up what he felt was old news. He argued that he had addressed this line of criticism years ago. However, as every literate person explained in December, Hart never actually offered an apology until after he stepped down from hosting the film industry’s biggest awards ceremony.
Hart seems resentful about that decision and the circumstances that informed it.
See his interview with Ellen DeGeneres, which was undoubtedly orchestrated to assist Hart in getting his awards show host gig back. “You have grown, you have apologized, you are apologizing again right now,” DeGeneres told Hart. “You’ve done it. Don’t let those people win—host the Oscars.”
Those people being the “trolls” and “haters” as she described Hart’s critics.
As much as I dream of dancing with Ellen to old southern rap, her interview fell short. She was not directly insulted by Hart’s jokes and tweets; Black queer men were. She has a right to her opinion, but not to dismiss rightful criticism (notably from other people who are part of the wider LGBTQ community)—as many have since informed her.
Even so, this controversy should be long over. It’s 2019 now. And yet, it keeps going.
In Hart’s defense, he may be contractually obligated to do press to promote his new film The Upside. But it’s his mishandling of this public relations nightmare of his own invention that prolongs it. And it’s the hostile, dismissive tone he continues to take when answering those lingering questions about his homophobic past and the way he’s addressed it.
Black gay men like Don Lemon have tried to point this out, asking Hart to reconsider what many felt was an “insincere apology.” Lemon invited Hart to appear on his show. After all, Hart has curiously spoken to everyone except the gay Black men his “jokes” were targeted against. So why not take this opportunity and dead the problem once and for all?
The Saturday following the widely shared Lemon clip, Hart posted on Instagram. “When did we get to the point where we forgot that we all learn, then we all have the ability to grow and with that growth comes a wealth of knowledge,” he wrote. “You can’t change without a understanding of what GROWTH means.”
But then on Monday, Kevin Hart apologized again, on his satellite radio show, in the third person. “Once again, Kevin Hart apologizes for his remarks that hurt members of the LGBTQ community,” Hard said. “I apologize.” Hart also took the opportunity to complain about Lemon’s remarks, asserting that it was “not [his] dream” to become an LGBTQ ally. Between speaking in third person and declining a position that I cannot recall anyone offering him, it’s no wonder this needless PR crisis appears more insurmountable.
In an interview on Good Morning America that aired on Wednesday, Michael Strahan offered Hart yet another chance to put this to bed. But Hart would not explain exactly how he’s evolved from those old views. Nor would he answer questions about those who questioned his apology. Asked a direct question of what he would say to fathers of gay children, regardless of their race, Hart once again made it about him.
“I have an understanding that I’ve addressed it and I’ve said everything that I can possibly say, so I’m over it,” Hart explained. He added that he was “done with it” and it “gets no more energy from me.”
Only the controversy did get more energy, on Thursday’s episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
In response to Hart’s claims that he is moving on, Colbert countered, “I’ve found that it’s not over until the audience is over it. Not when I’m over it.”
“At some point you just have to be okay with you,” Hart responded. “I’m okay with me and all the decisions I’ve made in my life. This is the decision I’ve made to say: ‘I’m over it’.”
So over it that you won’t stop talking about? Over it until you’re not in the next interview?
Colbert asked Hart whether, if he could go back and do it all over again, he would have handled anything differently. Hart said, “No, I wouldn’t change anything.”
All people have wanted from Kevin Hart was a sincere apology, nothing more or less. To Colbert’s point, the public does not feel like they have gotten one, hence this ongoing and utterly exhausting spectacle. There is a level of humility required when apologizing. Kevin Hart has yet to display any, despite having been asked about this subject for years. Now, what could have easily been a few days’ worth of bad headlines is likely to follow Hart for the rest of his career. He may have finally apologized for what he said, but based on his subsequent words and actions, he is not really sorry.