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Kevin Hart criticized for telling Jussie Smollett to 'stand strong' after homophobic attack

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Tuesday’s news that Empire star Jussie Smollett was attacked in what Chicago police are investigating as a suspected hate crime has prompted outrage and sadness from several high-profile figures, including Zendaya, Steve Harvey and Cher. Nancy Pelosi called it “an affront to our humanity,” while Emma Watson lashed out at the “ugly prejudice and bigotry behind this violence.”

Kevin Hart also voiced his disgust at the attack, during which police say the openly gay Smollett was subjected to racist and homophobic slurs while a noose was put around his neck and an “unknown chemical substance” was poured on him. Smollett also confirmed to police that his two attackers shouted, “MAGA country.”

Hart addressed the “unbelievably sad” attack in an Instagram post and a video posted to Instagram Stories, in which he decried society going “backwards.”

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“We as people have to do better,” the comedian wrote. “WTF is going on the world???? Why are we falling in love with hate???? … I will forever choose love and I will continue to teach my kids how to do the same. Stand strong brother.”

Despite the seemingly heartfelt statement, Hart is facing new scrutiny over the homophobic jokes he made during old stand-up routines and on Twitter. The off-color remarks, in which Hart joked about discouraging his son from being gay, caused backlash that resulted in his stepping down from hosting this year’s Oscars ceremony. Ellen DeGeneres was also criticized for saying Hart should be given a “second chance.”

Hart’s critics say the attack on Smollett, a black gay man, illustrates why his homophobic jokes were so reviled.

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Queer Eye co-host Jonathan Van Ness, meanwhile, responded to Hart’s Instagram post by offering a teaching moment — though some Hart fans accused him of picking on the Jumanji star.

“Queer people need straight people to be very clear about why people choose hate; they chose hate because they don’t know better,” he wrote. “That’s why we need allies to call homophobia what it is by name and stand in solidarity in name with LGBTQ people.”

Others put it more bluntly.

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Hart later hit back at one critic, insisting that he had changed for the better over the years.

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Because she defended Hart on her show this month, DeGeneres is also facing backlash. Her tweet of support for Smollett, who came out as gay on her show, has been criticized by those who think she sold out the LGBTQ community by backing Hart in the face of an uproar over his homophobic past.

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This post has been updated to include reactions to Ellen DeGeneres’s tweet and Kevin Hart’s response.

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