Kevin Hart says he has stepped down as Oscars host after an outcry over previous anti-gay tweets by the comedian.
Hart posted on Twitter early Friday an apology to the LGBTQ community for his past words.
He said he stepped down so as not to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists.
"I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past," Hart wrote, adding in a separate tweet: "I'm sorry that I hurt people ... I am evolving and want to continue to do so. My goal is to bring people together not tear us apart. Much love & appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again."
In an Instagram video post also from early Friday, Hart explained that he had been contacted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and asked to apologize over the Tweets.
In the video Hart, 39, says that he has expressed regret over his past tweets before.
"I just got a call from the Academy and that call basically said, ‘Kevin, apologize for your tweets of old or we’re going to have to move on and find another host,' " Hart says. "I’m talking about the tweets from 2009 and 2010. I chose to pass on the apology. The reason why I passed is because I’ve addressed this several times. This is not the first time this has come up. I’ve addressed it. I’ve spoken on it. I’ve said where the rights and wrongs were. I’ve said who I am now versus who I was then. I’ve done it. I’m not going to continue to go back and tap into the days of old when I’ve moved on and I’m in a completely different place in my life.”
Hart’s response to criticism over earlier homophobic tweets on Thursday had further inflamed a backlash to the comedian two days after he had been named host of the upcoming Academy Awards.
On Thursday, Hart wrote on Instagram that critics should “stop looking for reasons to be negative” after the years-old tweets surfaced. In an accompanying video, a shirtless Hart lounging in bed warily said he wasn’t going to “let the craziness frustrate me.”
“I’m almost 40 years old. If you don’t believe that people change, grow, evolve? I don’t know what to tell you,” said Hart, who added, in all-caps: “I love everybody.”
Hart has since deleted some of the anti-gay tweets, mostly dated from 2009 to 2011. But they had already been screen-captured and been shared virally online.
Hart’s attitudes about homosexuality were also a well-known part of his stand-up act. In the 2010 special “Seriously Funny,” he said “one of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay.”
“Keep in mind, I’m not homophobic, I have nothing against gay people, do what you want to do, but me, being a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will,”
GLAAD, the advocacy group for LGBTQ rights, had said Thursday that it had reached out to Oscars broadcaster ABC, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Hart’s management to “discuss Kevin’s anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and record.”
Representatives for the academy and for ABC didn’t respond to messages Thursday.
It’s not the first time an Oscars host has been forced to answer for anti-gay remarks. Ahead of the 2012 Academy Awards, producer Brett Ratner, who had been paired with host Eddie Murphy, resigned days after using a gay slur at a film screening. Murphy soon after exited, as well.