Editor’s Note: Kara Alaimo, an assistant professor of public relations at Hofstra University, is the author of “Pitch, Tweet, or Engage on the Street: How to Practice Global Public Relations and Strategic Communication.” She was spokeswoman for international affairs in the Treasury Department during the Obama administration. Follow her on Twitter @karaalaimo. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author; view more opinion at CNN.
On Thursday evening, comedian Ellen DeGeneres said Kevin Hart should get to host the Oscars this year after all. Hart gave up the role in December after homophobic tweets from nearly a decade ago resurfaced. Now, DeGeneres – a prominent member of the gay community herself – says she has called the Academy of Motion Picture Arts of Sciences, and they would be happy for Hart to return. “I believe in forgiveness. I believe in second chances. And I believe in @KevinHart4real,” DeGeneres tweeted.
DeGeneres is right: Hart should host the Oscars this year. Here’s why.
In clips from his upcoming interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Hart says he understands why his past posts were hurtful and people were upset. “I don’t joke like that anymore because that was wrong,” he says. “That was a guy that was just looking for laughs, and that was stupid. I don’t do that anymore.”
As a society, it’s important for us to forgive people for hateful comments they made in the past if they have truly repented and changed their views. After all, we want people to learn and grow. By contrast, if people who have made homophobic (or racist or sexist or other bigoted) comments are never allowed to apologize and be accepted back into mainstream society, they would be incentivized to become even more hateful so that they can find support and community among extremist groups That would be terrible for the gay community.
Allowing Hart to host would send a message to others who have made disparaging and bigoted remarks in the past that it’s possible for them to become more informed and tolerant – and that Americans will embrace them for doing so. That would be an incredibly powerful example and could cause others to renounce hate, too.
But Hart and DeGeneres are wrong about one thing. In his interview with DeGeneres, Hart said people had gone through 40,000 of his tweets to find the inappropriate ones, calling the recirculation of his past posts “a malicious attack on my character.” DeGeneres said that, if he doesn’t host, the trolls who found the offensive tweets are “going to win.”
That’s not true. We’re all responsible for everything we say and do – including, of course, our own social media posts. Saying that something is old isn’t a valid excuse. But, if someone has truly evolved in their thinking and is remorseful, they should be able to disavow statements they regret from the past. This appears to be the case for Hart.
Hart has already apologized. But, if he hosts the Oscars, he would need to open the ceremony by doing so again and renouncing his past comments. This could give the event a great theme: The need for Americans to accept people who are different – and people who have erred in the past.
That would send an important message across the country. Interest in the controversy could also be great for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and draw more viewers. Last year’s ceremony, which was widely described as boring, had a viewership of only about 26.5 million people – the lowest number in a decade.
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Having Hart as host would be great for America – and the academy. Here’s hoping the producers are enlightened enough to cast him back in the role.