After Kevin Hart stepped down from hosting the Oscars last week, Nick Cannon took to Hart's defence by surfacing old tweets from white women comedians. Cannon shared screen shots of tweets from Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler, and Sarah Silverman.
"I wonder if there was any backlash here..." Cannon wrote. All three tweets that Cannon shared used a homophobic slur in various contexts.
"I don't mean this in a hateful way but the new bachelorette's a f—," Silverman's tweet read. Schumer's tweet addressed her followers with the slur — "Enjoy Skyfall, f—s" — and Handler's tweet used the slur to refer to a bird. Representation for Handler, Silverman and Schumer did not immediately return Refinery29's request for comment.
Later, when one user suggested that Cannon needed to audit his own tweets, the actor replied, "Nope!! You know I've been saying fucked up shit since twitter started! I don't play that politically correct bullshit!"
Following the announcement that Hart would host the 2019 Oscars, Twitter users started to circulate Hart's tweets from 2009 in which the comedian used the homophobic slur. Hart, claiming that he'd already addressed his tweets from the past, refused to apologise. "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," Hart said in an Instagram video. Later, he stepped down and issued a full apology for his comments.
The controversy has continued, though, as the prospect of "old bad tweets" looms large. After all, most actors over a certain age — certainly comedians, who actively tweet provocative things — will likely have tweets in poor taste somewhere on their timeline. On Saturday Night Live this weekend, Weekend Update co-anchor Michael Che pointed out, "Didn’t the Academy nominate Mel Gibson for an award just last year?" Gibson, despite two highly-publicised incidents involving racial and anti-semitic slurs, earned a nomination in 2017 for directing Hacksaw Ridge.
Twitter users then looked to comedian Billy Eichner, who decried Hart's tweets earlier that week. "People have been tweeting me about Nick Cannon's tweets and the use of the F-word by the comedians that he points out," Eichner said in a Notes app statement. "I think Nick's point is a compelling one."
People have been tweeting me for my thoughts on Nick Cannon’s tweets. I obviously can’t speak for the entire LGBTQ community. But here’s my personal opinion for those who care, which is probably not that many people. #SundayFunday pic.twitter.com/2K36pVeF45— billy eichner (@billyeichner) December 10, 2018
He went on to say that because he was a "grown up," he could understand the "nuance" in the tweets Cannon had shared. "I think these are comedians who felt they can use that term because they have a very large, dedicated gay male followings." He argued that Hart's use of the term was different; Hart's tweets, Eichner suggested, indicated a real desire to harm someone who might be gay. Eichner concluded that the best option is to avoid the word at all costs. And, he added, he did not subscribe to "cancel culture."
"I'm into conversation, not cancellation," Eichner added.
Silverman, seemingly as a response, retweeted a thread from author Greg Hogpen. In the thread, Hogpen points out the same structural flaw in Cannon's argument that Eichner did. "The thing is, a lot of gay guys didn’t take offence to these comments, because we didn’t feel the violence or malicious intent behind it," Hogpen argued.Refinery29 has reached out to Silverman for further comment.
With the prospect of another Oscars host looming, the bad tweets conversation — which includes with it cancel culture and what it means to have one's thoughts from the past decade recorded on the internet — continues.