NEW YORK • Kevin Hart (above) had at first resisted pressure to say sorry for his past homophobic remarks, after he was named host of next year's Oscars.
But, yesterday, he announced that he was not going to host the event.
That came hours after he had said in a video posted online: "Guys, I'm almost 40. If you don't believe that people change, grow, evolve as they get older, I don't know what to tell you.
"If you want to hold people in a position where they always have to justify or explain the past, then do you."
In a tweet to explain his U-turn, he said: "I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists. I sincerely apologise for my insensitive words from my past."
In another tweet, he wrote: "I'm sorry that I hurt people. I am evolving and want to continue to do so."
Fans of Hart had lauded the decision to have the celebrity comedian host the Oscars that has been struggling with sinking ratings and political backlash.
Critics said the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences overlooked black actors, writers and directors in 2015 and 2016.
Hart recently starred in two hits, Night School (2018) and Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017), and is in the midst of an international stand-up tour.
But the announcement of his Oscar stint saw a resurfacing of his old comments and tweets.
He has also brought up homophobia in his comedy shows.
"One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay," he said in a 2010 stand-up performance.
"That's a fear. Keep in mind, I'm not homophobic. I have nothing against gay people. Be happy. Do what you want to do. But me being a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will."
Five years later, he discussed that joke in an interview with Rolling Stone.
"I wouldn't tell that joke today because when I said it, the times weren't as sensitive as they are now," he said. "I think we love to make big deals out of things that aren't necessarily big deals, because we can.
"These things become public spectacles. So why set yourself up for failure?"