Don Lemon Shares Emotional Message to Kevin Hart: "This Is the Time to Hear Other People Out"

Don Lemon-Sarah Kate Ellis-Inset-Getty-H 2019
Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Brooks Brothers; Inset: Rob Kim/WireImage

"We have to stop low-key co-signing homophobia. It's not cool. We won't tolerate jokes that do otherwise," Lemon said on 'CNN Tonight' Friday evening.

In an emotional segment on CNN Tonight, host Don Lemon shared his thoughts on the uproar surrounding Kevin Hart and the Oscars.

Lemon, who is openly gay, addressed Hart directly, saying, "Kevin, if anything this is the time to hear other people out, to hear why they might have been offended. I don’t see any meaningful outreach to the community, … and now you want the conversation to end." Lemon added that, for many people, the apologies Hart has given have fallen flat. "To many they seem insincere, and that he has somehow turned himself into a victim instead of acknowledging the real victims of violent and sometimes deadly homophobia."

"Walking away right now, that is your choice, but many of us need to keep the conversation going," he added. "It’s life or death. Someone like Kevin Hart can be a leader — the ultimate change agent — he can help change homophobia in the black community."

His comments came after Hart was interviewed by fellow comedian and former Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres. She defended his position and suggested he has apologized enough for the anti-gay tweets that caused mass controversy and resulted in Hart stepping down from the hosting role.

DeGeneres reportedly received word from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences that Hart would be able to reverse his decision, and she encouraged him to do so. 

Lemon called DeGeneres a trailblazer and said that having Hart on her show was her extending "an olive branch." But, he said, she doesn't speak for the whole LGBTQ community. "We need to speak up for the young black kids in the LGBTQ community," he said. "I'm saying these issues need to be addressed. Because [LGBTQ youth] need to know that they have value and it’s OK to be who they are. We have to stop low-key co-signing homophobia. It’s not cool. We won’t tolerate jokes that do otherwise."

He later reiterated that he thought Hart would eventually host the Oscars and that he hoped the comedian "will do the right thing." He said he's open to talking to the comedian or to DeGeneres or the Academy, and that "no one is out to get anyone else here."

GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis also appeared on the show Friday evening to discuss the latest developments concerning Hart and the Oscars.

Ellis said that GLAAD hopes "that he can still step up, not step down" to the hosting opportunity because the LGBTQ community needs "more allies than ever."

"This is an enormous opportunity for him to use his voice and his platform and share his evolution," she said.

Ellis, who is gay, added that “people evolve, and LGBTQ people are open to acceptance.”

"We are not going after Hart," Ellis said. "We feel he has an opportunity to step up." During the appearance, Ellis suggested that Hart would be a "wonderful host."

Elllis ended her appearance with, "If he has evolved, there is so much good he can do with his platform."

In a statement earlier in the day, Ellis said, “From when this news first broke, GLAAD said Kevin Hart should not step down from the Oscars, he should step up and send an unequivocal message of acceptance to LGBTQ youth that matches the force and impact of his initial anti-LGBTQ remarks."

While the host remains unclear, the 91st Academy Awards will take place as scheduled on Feb. 24 at the Dolby Theatre.