Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres is campaigning hard for Kevin Hart to take back his spot hosting this year’s Oscars, going so far as to call someone at the Academy to lobby for him.
Kevin Hart stepped down last month from hosting after tweets from 2009-2011 resurfaced with derogatory language referring to gay people and disparaging comments about sexuality.
DeGeneres, who moved up the release of an interview with Hart to Friday, urged him to reconsider hosting the Oscars, saying she had contacted someone, whom she did not identify, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and that they were still interested in him doing so.
At the end of the hour, Hart said, “You have put a lot of things on my mind,” promising that he was “evaluating this conversation.”
Earlier in the show, Hart explained that he backed out of the gig after he was given “an ultimatum.”
“‘Kevin, apologize, or we’re going to have to find another host,’” he said he was told.
The comic said he chose to “walk away” rather than be a distraction to the event.
He also labeled the process of looking through his roughly 40,000 old tweets an attempt to “damage” him – “a malicious attack on my character. That’s an attack to end me.”
DeGeneres didn’t dispute those assertions but said she viewed the opportunity to host as a chance to model growth and stand up to against “trolls.”
“As a gay person,” DeGeneres said, “I am sensitive to all of that and I talked to you about all of this and you’ve already expressed that it’s not being educated on the subject, not realizing how dangerous those words are, not realizing how many kids are killed for being gay, or beaten up every day. You have grown, you have apologized, you are apologizing again right now. You’ve done it.”
She added: “Don’t let those people win. Host the Oscars.”
As backlash mounted against DeGeneres for coming to Hart’s defense, the host tweeted Friday afternoon: “However you feel about this, the only positive way through it is to talk about it. Thank you for being here, @KevinHart4real.”
Hart received a wildly enthusiastic response from the audience, and before the conversation turned to the Oscars, DeGeneres lauded him for his generosity, saying, “Kevin is my friend.”
She also gave a rave review to his new movie, “The Upside,” which premieres January 11.
CNN’s Brian Lowry and Sandra Gonzalez contributed to this report.