On January 29, Empire actor Jussie Smollett became the victim of a hate crime in Chicago, Illinois, when two men attacked him, putting a noose around his neck and shouting “This is MAGA country,” in his face.
An outpouring of love and support for Smollett and a collective outrage over the racism and homophobia which caused the attack have washed over social media.
One message from actor and comedian Kevin Hart, however, caused a small controversy due to the recently resurfaced homophobic tweets and comedy material which kept him from hosting the Oscars.
Hart sent Smollett his thoughts and prayers on social media.
View this post on Instagram
Sending prayers your way @jussiesmollett ....This is unbelievably sad. Why are we going backwards....this is disgusting. We as people have to do better. WTF is going on the world???? Why are we falling in love with hate???? God damn it people....Choose love...I repeat...Choose love. I will forever choose love and I will continue to teach my kids how to do the same. Stand strong brother
Sending prayers your way @jussiesmollett ....This is unbelievably sad. Why are we going backwards....this is disgusting. We as people have to do better. WTF is going on the world???? Why… https://t.co/G6vCnKPEhf— Kevin Hart (@KevinHart4real) January 30, 2019
Hart would later add:
“Operation spread love is in full effect damn it.”
“I don’t condone or believe in hate, infact [sic] I despise it.”
“Hate makes me sick to my stomach…its pointless [sic].”
“Cowards & weak individuals embrace it.”
“I choose love…I love all of you.”
“I challenge the rest of the world 2 do the same.”
Hart’s tweets were not received well online, where many people reminded him of his homophobic comments from between 2009 and 2011.
Most notably, many referenced one joke where Hart claimed he would “break it over his head and say in my voice ‘stop that’s gay'” if he saw his son playing with a dollhouse.
Well this is rich— valerie complex (@ValerieComplex) January 30, 2019
good thing the MAGA people didn't have a dollhouse. pic.twitter.com/TS2xFUgQxa— Max S. Gordon (@maxgordon19) January 30, 2019
For many people on Twitter, the crime against Smollett was an extension of the same sentiments Hart wrote about in his regrettable tweets.
Keep yo tears n prayers...This is why yo joke was important and such an issue— Malcom Z (@section18_) January 30, 2019
Others, however, thought Hart’s tweets represented a positive step.
Stay on topic. He’s offering condolences and his own opinion.— Mary L. Shaw (@MaryLShaw2) January 30, 2019
Wow, I guess some people can never be forgiven for past mistakes. He’s apologized more than enough times! How long will he be condemned? We have all done and said things in our past that we’ve regretted and apologized for. Don’t you expect to be forgiven!— melba sanders 👠 (@melba_sanders1) January 30, 2019
There is still a large swath of the internet who believe Hart never actually apologized for his earlier comments.
Though he may regret saying things which have caused controversy in his present, some believe Hart’s apologies fell short of sincere and actual acts of contrition have been few-and-far between.
Prominent TV writer and podcaster Ira Madison III went so far as to call Hart’s condolences his “funniest joke.”
your funniest joke congrats https://t.co/N3JqxaSJMl— Ira Madison III (@ira) January 30, 2019
Hart responded to Ira’s comments, defending himself.
I stand with a man in his time of hurt and need by giving him heart felt support and u take the time to harp on my 10yr past that I have apologized about and moved on from by being a better person. Do you want change? If so I am an example of what u want people to do...CHANGE! https://t.co/Ybbo8OYKTt— Kevin Hart (@KevinHart4real) January 30, 2019
Meanwhile, however, most of Twitter continued to demand that Hart show he’s made actual change, since he once joked about attacks like the one against Jollett.
Where is the change ????? pic.twitter.com/lqNZehfBLF— hiVeiga (@yoGuaGua) January 31, 2019
Not making the jokes anymore, or showing remorse for what his actions may have caused pic.twitter.com/OYmkv0iqZa— autopilot_andchill (@_ard_eti) January 31, 2019
He never showed remorse though. He just balked at the suggestion he should apologize and made himself out to be a victim. He's handled the whole thing so immaturely.— nectarina (@nectarina12) January 31, 2019
Joking about violence against the LGBTQ+ community is never funny and emboldens dark actions like these.
Do you see why the “jokes” weren’t funny now??— Bethany (@niale_west) January 30, 2019
In the meantime, Twitter’s reactions to Hart’s response seemed fairly unified.