AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Two days - that is how long it took for comedian Kevin Hart to accept the invitation to host the Oscars and then decline. This follows swift social media criticism of his past homophobic comments. Initially Hart had taken to Instagram and said this.
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KEVIN HART: My team calls me - oh, my God, Kevin, the world is upset about tweets you did years ago, oh, my God. Guys, I'm almost 40 years old. If you don't believe that people change, grow, evolve as they get older, I don't know what to tell you. If you want to hold people in a position where they always have to justify or explain their past, then do you.
CHANG: Do you. Well, then apparently he had a change of heart because then late last night he tweeted, quote, "I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past." To unpack some of what happened, I am now joined by Linda Holmes of Pop Culture Happy Hour. Welcome.
LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.
CHANG: So much of this criticism of Kevin Hart as Oscars host began on social media. People were tweeting screenshots and YouTube clips of his homophobic comments he has made throughout his career. This feels like it's happening really fast. But we've seen this movie before - right? - I mean, people getting nailed for comments they've made years and years ago.
HOLMES: Yeah. And actually for him, this is really - a lot of this is in the last decade or so. So it's not actually as old as it sometimes is. We have seen this before. We've seen it with Brett Ratner when he was going to produce the Academy Awards. And then he made a comment that got people upset, and he wound up stepping down. With Kevin Hart, they were older comments. But they came from his stand-up and things he said on Twitter. So it was kind of a multifaceted problem. And although sometimes it does seem like it happens really fast, people have always wanted to hold famous people accountable for comments that they make.
CHANG: Yeah, forever.
HOLMES: It's just that social media has made it easier to...
CHANG: To document.
HOLMES: ...Hold them accountable. They used to be accountable for those comments to kind of a small number of gatekeepers who would decide when it was OK to welcome you back. And now those decisions really wind up being made by the whole...
CHANG: The mass public.
HOLMES: Exactly, the whole of public.
CHANG: But the thing with Kevin Hart is, you know, he's built this brand as being a brash personality who says uncomfortable things. I mean, that's why he's funny to a lot of people. But that persona doesn't exactly line up with the expectations that come with hosting the Oscars. As we heard, he initially doubled down on his comments. The Academy wanted him to apologize. Why didn't Hart just apologize immediately? Why even wait?
HOLMES: Well, it's impossible to know what's in his head.
CHANG: Right, sure.
HOLMES: He might have not apologized because he isn't sorry. He might have not apologized because he doesn't like being told what to do. But it's also possible that, from a career perspective, the Oscars hosting job wasn't worth giving up that part of his personality that really thrives on saying, I don't care who is offended.
CHANG: He doesn't need the Oscars.
HOLMES: That's always been part of his brand.
HOLMES: For him to go over and kind of acknowledge other people's feelings and the need to be more sensitive potentially could hurt his brand...
CHANG: (Laughter) Right.
HOLMES: ...To his existing fan base. And the Oscars audience is a little different audience, and it's not clear whether he needs that. So he may have made that decision for career reasons.
CHANG: Then, again, he did say, I'm sorry. So what was going on there?
HOLMES: Well, he did say he was sorry at the same moment that he was saying that he stepped down.
CHANG: Ah, so still defiant - so where does the ceremony go from here? I mean, they got to find a new host now.
HOLMES: Yeah. I mean, it's still a couple of months away. And actually, you know, they only lost a couple of days...
CHANG: That's true, yeah.
HOLMES: ...Because this was not a long cycle. So I think they will keep looking. They'll find somebody. They're not going to have trouble finding somebody to host the Oscars. I think it's just going to be a matter of finding somebody who is really noncontroversial. There's certainly a lot of drafting of people going on Twitter - people making their own suggestions, people suggesting themselves in some cases. My suggestion is Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda...
CHANG: Oh, yeah.
HOLMES: ...Who are in "Mary Poppins Returns" together. They sing and dance, and I think they would be great hosts. It's a Disney movie, and it's an ABC show. But that's the kind of wacky idea that has nothing to do with anything that people are making on Twitter.
CHANG: (Laughter) That's NPR's Linda Holmes. Thanks very much.
HOLMES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.