Comedian Kevin Hart says he learned “necessary” lesson from backlash over homophobic jokes

LOS ANGELES, USA. December 10, 2019: Kevin Hart at the handprint & footprint ceremony for Kevin Hart at the TCL Chinese Theatre.
Kevin Hart at his handprint & footprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre on December 10, 2019. Photo: Featureflash/Shutterstock

Kevin Hart describes experiencing a “come-to-Jesus moment” following widespread backlash to homophobic tweets he posted early in his career that resurfaced in 2018.

The actor and comedian addressed the controversy that erupted after it was announced in December 2018 that he would host the 2019 Academy Awards. He spoke of the controversy and what he learned in a new profile in the WSJ Magazine’s spring 2024 men’s fashion issue, published online Wednesday.

Following the announcement of his hosting the 2019 Oscars, old anti-gay tweets — including one in which he joked about bashing his son with a dollhouse, —surfaced on social media, leading to an outcry from the LGBTQ+ community and allies. Hart initially refused to apologize, insisting that he was not homophobic and that the posts no longer reflected his views.

Days later, he announced that he was bowing out of the Oscars gig, apologizing “to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past” and adding that he was continuing to evolve.

Hart undermined his own apology significantly during a January 2019 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in which he vented his frustration at being labeled homophobic and his resentment of social media users who brought his anti-gay jokes to light.

DeGeneres took it upon herself to forgive Hart on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community, blasting what she described as “haters” in the process. The out talk show host was criticized for seemingly trying to launder her famous friend’s reputation despite Hart giving no public indication that his apology had been anything more than a begrudging concession.

In this week’s WSJ Magazine profile, however, Hart sounded a very different note. “Sometimes it’s okay to take a step back and to be educated,” he said of the controversy. “I got a crash course. It was one that was necessary and needed.”

While he didn’t elaborate further, Hart has previously discussed his “education” in the wake of the Oscars debacle. Shortly after the 2019 Ellen appearance, he apologized again on his Sirius XM show, Straight from the Hart.

“We thought it was okay to talk like that, because that’s how we talked to one another. In that, you go, f**k! This is wrong now,” he said of his anti-gay jokes. “Now we’re in a space where I’m around people of the LGBTQ community, and I’m now aware of how these words make them feel, and why they say, ‘That sh*t hurt because of what I’ve been through.’”

He went even further in a 2020 interview with Men’s Health, taking himself to task for his initial response to the backlash. According to writer Peter Flax, Hart regretted lashing out in anger at being called homophobic, while neglecting to condemn the sort of anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes and violence that he joked about in those old tweets.

“There was a big gap between what I thought the problem was versus what the problem really was,” Hart said. “It wasn’t until close friends like Wanda Sykes, Lee Daniels, and Ellen [DeGeneres] talked to me and explained what they didn’t hear me say that I understood. Then I was like, ‘Oh, sh*t — I did f**k up.’”

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