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However, the comedian’s video posts to his 66 million-plus Instagram followers about why he didn’t revisit his old tweets were viewed more favorably than unfavorably, while the film Academy was viewed negatively by some, according to a new Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll.
Hart’s decision to step down from hosting the 91st Oscars was viewed favorably by 44 percent of Americans in the survey, which was conducted from Dec. 7 to 10 from a national sample of 2,202 adults. Among respondents, 26 percent said that Hart shouldn’t have exited as host.
Americans were split on whether the Academy made a good call to ask Hart to apologize or step down: 36 percent of respondents said the organization would have been “right” to pressure the comedian to apologize, while 34 percent said that was “wrong.”
Generally, 29 percent of respondents said they viewed Hart less favorably after the episode, while 26 percent viewed the Academy less favorably.
The comedian had officially unveiled his selection as Oscar host on Dec. 4, hours after THR reported that the actor had held talks with representatives from the Academy about the role.
Hart, a reliable box office draw whose recent hits include Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle ($962 million worldwide) and Central Intelligence ($216 million), was expected to help boost the award show’s flagging ratings. This year’s Jimmy Kimmel- hosted ceremony on March 4 drew 26.5 million viewers, an all-time low for the Oscars.
Less than 48 hours after Hart’s unveiling, news outlets had published stories noting the comedian’s use of anti-gay and homophobic sentiments in tweets from 2009, 2010 and 2011 after those tweets had been resurfaced on the platform.
One of Hart’s first reactions was to publish a Dec. 6 Instagram video in which he wrote, “Stop looking for reasons to be negative…. Stop searching for reasons to be angry” and gave a casual explanation about why he wasn’t looking to revisit the tweets.
The same day, he spelled out what he viewed as an ultimatum from the Academy. “So, 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.’ Talking about the tweets from 2009 and 2010,” Hart said in a follow-up video.
Hart added, “I chose to pass, I passed 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.”
In the new THR/Morning Consult survey, 42 percent of Americans viewed Hart favorably after his Instagram post. Meanwhile, only 14 percent viewed the Academy more favorably.
The hosting debacle also shed some light on what many Americans think of controversial, years-old tweets being resurfaced. Broadly speaking, 56 percent respondents agreed with the statement, “An old social media post does not represent the person who posted it and has no influence on my opinion of someone.”
On the other hand, 44 percent agreed with the sentiment, “Social media posts are a form of expression and influence my opinion of someone regardless of how old the post is.”
Part of Hart’s Instagram explanation had been that he was being targeted by “trolls” online. In his Dec. 6 Instagram post he said, “we feed the Internet trolls and we reward them. I’m not going to do it, man.”
For others, the comedian missed an opportunity to make a simple gesture toward inclusivity. “Kevin Hart shouldn’t have stepped down; he should have stepped up,” stated GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis shortly after the comedian withdrew.
Ellis added, “Hart’s apology to LGBTQ people is an important step forward, but he missed a real opportunity to use his platform and the Oscars stage to build unity and awareness. We would still welcome that conversation with him.”
The Academy has yet to comment publicly on the incident.
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