The comedian Kevin Hart stepped down on Thursday as host of the 2019 Academy Awards after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave him an ultimatum: Walk away or apologize for anti-gay tweets he posted years ago that recently resurfaced.
Mr. Hart said that he had changed. “Guys, I’m almost 40,” he said in an Instagram video. “If you don’t believe that people change, grow, evolve as they get older, I don’t know what to tell you.” But that wasn’t good enough for the internet. The complaints and outrage continued until Mr. Hart had stepped down from his position as host of the Oscars andgiven a sorrowful public apology.
This has become a familiar pattern: A celebrity makes news; his or her history is scoured for any wrong thing (and there is always something); the internet goes crazy. It doesn’t matter whether the celebrity has changed his or her views and apologized in the past; the public still wants blood.
I’m not condoning Kevin Hart’s old jokes, and he isn’t either. But I fear we’re creating a disastrous precedent. In holding people accountable for their old views — even ones they realized were wrong and apologized for — we are setting standards that nobody can meet. We cannot expect to make progress if we do not allow people the chance to grow with us.
The truth is, we are all guilty. Can you name a person who has not lied, said something inappropriate or hurt another? I can’t.
I can’t even say those things about myself. I know that I have made mistakes, hurt others and believed things that I now know to be false. In fact, I bet I’m not even aware of all the stuff I’ve done wrong. None of us are innocent.
Informed opinions on today’s vital issues.
If I do something wrong, I want to have the chance to realize what I’ve done, change my view, correct the mistake and learn from it. I’m pretty sure that every one of you, if put in the hot seat, would want the same.
We must be careful about the world we are creating in the age of social media, especially since there’s no turning back.
Susan Fowler is an editor in the Opinion section of the NewYorkTimes