The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ended up looking for a new host for the 91st Academy Awards less than 36 hours after naming Kevin Hart for the slot. The comedian, who had faced a major backlash over homophobic tweets from 2011 and earlier, announced Thursday night that he would no longer be doing the job he had described as the "opportunity of a lifetime," TMZ reports. "I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists," he said. "I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from the past." He added: "I'm sorry that I hurt people ... I am evolving and want to continue to do so."
Hart began deleting the old tweets Wednesday after he was named as Oscar host, bringing fresh attention to posts in which he regularly used the slurs "homo" and "fag," BuzzFeed reports. In one, he said somebody looked like a "gay bill board for AIDS." As the outcry began, Hart said in an Instagram post that he was "nearly 40 years old," and if "you don't believe that people change, grow, evolve as they get older, then I don't know what to tell you." This was seen by many as a "defiant non-apology," Variety notes. In a second post hours later, Hart said the Academy had given him an ultimatum to apologize for the tweets or be replaced—and he had chosen to pass. "The reason why I’ve passed is that I’ve addressed it several times," said Hart, who thanked the Academy for the opportunity. "If it goes away, no harm no foul," he said. (The 2019 hosting gig had been seen as Hollywood's least wanted job.)