Kevin Hart is turning to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for strength as he continues to face backlash for his past homophobic comments and tweets — outcry that caused the 39-year-old comedian to step down as host of the 91st Academy Awards.
On Friday, the comedian shared a quote from the civil rights leader on Twitter, writing, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
He thanked his supporters on Instagram Stories, too, before taking the stage in Sydney. “Still selling tickets, 32,000 and counting,” he said. “I love you all.”
Hours earlier, Hart had apologized for his previous remarks.
“I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year’s Oscar’s….this is because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists. I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past,” he tweeted.
“I’m sorry that I hurt people.. I am evolving and want to continue to do so. My goal is to bring people together not tear us apart,” Hart added. “Much love & appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again.”
Trouble first started for Hart in the wake of Tuesday’s announcement that he would hosting the Oscars, a job he called on Instagram, “the opportunity of a lifetime.”
A clip form Hart’s 2010 comedy special Seriously Funny in which he made a homophobic joke was also sent around — Hart admitting in the video, “One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay. That’s a fear. Keep in mind, I’m not homophobic. Be happy. Do what you want to do. But me, as a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will.”
“I’m thinking about what I did as a dad, did I do something wrong, and if I did, what was it?” he said at the time. “Not that I’m not gonna love my son or think about him any differently. The funny thing within that joke is that it’s me getting mad at my son because of my own insecurities — I panicked. It has nothing to do with him, it’s about me.”
That apology was one of the reasons Hart initially refused to give in to the backlash that started after his Oscars’ gig was announced — even after the Academy allegedly asked him to issue an apology.
“So, I just got a call from the Academy and that call basically said, ‘Kevin apologize for your tweets… or we’re going to have to move on and find another host,’ ” Hart said in a video shared to his Instagram on Wednesday that he captioned “I know who I am and so do the people closest to me.”
“I chose to pass, I passed on the apology,” he continued. “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. I’ve said where the rights and wrongs were. I’ve said who I am now versus who I was then. I’ve done it. I’ve done it.”
He continued: “I’m not going to continue to go back and tap into the days of old, when I’ve moved on and I’m in a completely different space in my life. The same energy that went into finding those old tweets could be the same energy put into finding the responses to the questions that have been asked years after years. We’re feeding the internet trolls and we reward them. I’m not going to do it, man. I’m going to be me, I’m going to stand my ground.”
Hart went on to explain that in the case that the Academy does decide to move forward with a different host, he is “thankful for the opportunity” and “if it goes away no harm no foul.”
The Academy has not commented on the reaction to Hart’s casting as host nor on his revelation that they asked for him to apologize, though a source familiar with the situation confirmed to PEOPLE that the Academy did ask Hart to apologize.
Prior to the Academy’s asking of an apology, Hart had posted another video where he addressed the tweets.
“I swear man our world is becoming beyond crazy,” he said on Wednesday. “I’m not going to let the craziness frustrate me or anger me especially when I worked hard to get to the mental space that I am at now.”
“My team calls me, ‘Oh my God, Kevin, the world is upset about tweets you did years ago.’ Oh my God. Guys, I’m almost 40 years old. If you don’t believe that people grow, change, evolve as they get older, I don’t know what to tell you,” Hart went on. “If you want to hold people in a position where they always have to justify or explain their past — then do you. I’m the wrong guy, man. I’m in a great place, a great mature place where all I do is spread positivity. If you’re not doing that, you’re not on my page.”
The 91st Academy Awards air February 24, 2019 (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.