Ellen DeGeneres’ attempt to clear comedian Kevin Hart’s name and reinstate him as Oscars host did not go over well with critics online.
The daytime host, who is openly gay and previously hosted the Academy Awards herself, was blasted for calling Hart’s critics “haters” and “trolls,” referring to those who unearthed the comic’s past homophobic jokes that cost him the high-profile hosting gig.
Hart says already apologized for the jokes in the past but refused to do so again when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave him an ultimatum to apologize once more or drop his hosting duties. He pulled the plug on the gig last month.
Members of the LGBTQ community publicly characterized DeGeneres’ endorsement of Hart on Thursday as a “betrayal,” while others scolded her for seemingly belittling journalists and other knowledgeable critics for researching the incoming host’s background. (Hart told DeGeneres he’ll reconsider hosting now.)
DeGeneres advocated for Hart in their interview, which airs in full on Friday, and told him that she called the film academy to see if it would be willing to have him back to emcee the Feb. 24 ceremony.
“There are so many haters out there,” DeGeneres said. “Whatever is going on on the internet, don’t pay attention to them. That’s a small group of people being very, very loud. We are a huge group of people who love you and want to see you host the Oscars.”
But that sentiment was far from universal.
“This is a trial balloon,” wrote Vulture’s Mark Harris. “Let’s see if ‘the mob’ has quieted down enough to put Hart right back in the gig he wants. It represents contempt for any kind of public outcry as dumb noise that you just have to ride out. It’s meant to minimize real distress from non-famous LGBT folk. …
“It’s a shame that DeGeneres has decided to serve as the instrument of that kind of perpetually embattled Hollywood bubble thinking,” Harris went on. “So, as a member of the ‘mob,’ I guess, I still say what I said before: Find another host this year.”
Hart seemed appreciative of DeGeneres’ defense but argued that “there’s a flip side” to the attack.
“On my side, openly I say I’m wrong for my past words. I say it. I said it. I understand that. I know that,” he said. “In this case it’s tough for me because it was an attack. This wasn’t an accident. This wasn’t a coincidence. It wasn’t a coincidence that the day after I received the job that tweets just somehow manifested from 2008.”
The prolific actor told DeGeneres that this was his first time in the line of fire and felt that the motivation was to destroy him, end all his partnerships, brand relationships, investment opportunities and his production company, as well as those who work for him.
“This is to damage the lives that have been invested in me,” he asserted. “It’s bigger than just the Oscars. It’s about the individuals that are out there now that are finding success in damaging your ‘celebrity.’”
But DeGeneres repeatedly encouraged him “to take a stand against the trolls” who would win if he didn’t host the the ceremony, saying that he was too talented and that it was his right to host.
“As I said to you earlier, it’s perfect that all this happened because there has to be a conversation about homophobia,” DeGeneres said. “And it brought up you reminding people that you’re a bigger person and that you’ve already apologized. You’re apologizing again. ...