Kevin Hart went on television again today to issue another non-apology for prior homophobic jokes and tweets. In a tense exchange with GMA's Michael Strahan, Hart said he was "done addressing it," and at one particularly ironic point declared that: "If you keep feeding this energy, then it’s going to grow."
The problem is, Hart is the one that's feeding that "energy." And with every appearance, he makes things a little worse for himself.
On December 6, when he stepped down from hosting this year's Oscars, he posted a video to Instagram and shared that he "passed on" making an apology at the request of the Academy. But then the same day, in a direct contradiction, he (or someone in his team?) did tweet an apology. A pretty good one at that:
Where Kevin Hart has gone wrong is continuing to conduct interviews in which he tersely talks about having addressed the controversy and saying he no longer wishes to do so. With every new declaration of not wanting to talk about it, Kevin Hart raises more questions about both his personal beliefs and his sincerity.
On GMA, for example, Hart claimed to have addressed the accusations of homophobia "back in 2008, 2009." But the homophobic material under the most scrutiny occurred in 2010 ("If I can prevent my son being gay, I will") and 2011 ("Yo if my son comes home & try’s 2 play with my daughters doll house I’m going 2 break it over his head & say n my voice 'stop that’s gay'"). CNN's Don Lemon pointed out that both CNN and Vulture could find no evidence of Hart apologizing back then.
Hart responded to Lemon's commentary two days later, during his Sirius XM show, Straight From The Hart, by saying: "Don Lemon goes on CNN and he’s like ‘You can fix this, become an ally.’ That’s not my… it’s not my life dream."
When Kristopher Tapley, of Variety's “Playback” podcast, had difficulty finding the old apologies Hart vehemently claimed to have made, Tapley asked the comedian about it directly. “It’s easy not to find the good,” Hart replied. “When me and Will Ferrell did Get Hard, and we did the promo tour, that’s when Kevin Hart was hit with so much stuff… I had to say to a person in the LGBTQ community, ‘Hey, I understand. And you know what? I’m wrong. But I can’t do nothing about that joke because it was done. I can’t do nothing about the tweets because they’re out there. I was wrong. It’ll never happen again and I’m sorry. Please accept my apology.’ So when people say, ‘Yo, I can’t find it,’ well, go ask the individual who dug up the stuff from 2009 to go do the same.”
Hart repeated the claim that he apologized during promotional appearances for Get Hard (a movie that has also had accusations of homophobia leveled at it) in his interview with Ellen:
Hart's decision to appear on the show was a smart way to publicly appear comfortable and friendly with a member of the LGBTQ community, and Ellen DeGeneres seemed sincere in her support of him. But, while Hart said on the show, "I'm sorry if these words hurt," he also worked a little too hard to present himself as a victim.
"The headlines are 'Kevin Hart refuses to apologize for homophobic tweets from the past,'" he told Ellen. "The word 'again' was left out. Everybody took those headlines and started to run with it." What he failed to acknowledge was that those headlines were a direct result of the video he posted to Instagram in which he literally talks about refusing to apologize:
This morning's GMA appearance was a new low for Hart though. When Michael Strahan gave him the opportunity to directly send a message to young gay people, Hart responded with a pretty major tangent: “Are you a monster, Mike? No. People see you on this show every day. It’s safe to say that you’ve got good energy. It’s safe to say you’re a loving person. Why would I assume anything different? Why do you have to prove that you are a loving individual? … I shouldn’t have to prove who I am."
In saying this, Hart aligned himself with Strahan as if the two stood on a level playing field; as if the scrutiny he was under came with simply being a public figure, and not because he has been demonstrably homophobic in his past.
In every interview, Hart wants us to give him props for growing as a person and leaving homophobic jokes behind, but it's difficult to do that when, in 2015, he admitted to Rolling Stone that the reason was not rooted in regret, but rather being fearful of a backlash. "I wouldn’t tell that joke today," he said, "because when I said it, the times weren’t as sensitive as they are now. I think we love to make big deals out of things that aren’t necessarily big deals because we can. These things become public spectacles. So why set yourself up for failure?”
The only thing Hart has proved in the last month is that he is good at making a lot of noise while saying almost nothing at all. He keeps asking us to believe he is not homophobic but ties himself up in knots to avoid saying anything positive about the LGBTQ community. He keeps telling us he addressed the issue many years ago, without pointing to any specific examples of him doing so. He keeps saying he's done talking about this but keeps booking new appearances to say he's done talking about this. And with every defensive denial of being prejudiced, Hart can't help but appear a little bit more prejudiced.