Don Lemon defends Kevin Hart: ‘It is not his dream to be an ally’

As speculation continues about whether Kevin Hart may return as Oscars host, CNN anchor Don Lemon revealed Monday night that he spoke with Hart over the weekend in an off the record conversation.

Lemon, who gave a passionate criticism of Hart’s comments on “The Ellen Show” during his own show on Friday, said he spoke to Hart for over an hour.

“It was a mostly off the record conversation because I wanted him to be honest with me,” Lemon said. The “CNN Tonight” segment followed Hart’s comments on his “Straight From the Hart” SiriusXM radio show that aired on Laugh Out Loud Radio Channel 96 Monday evening. On the show, Hart once again apologized for his past jokes, though he also defended his intent behind them.

“You may not like the way he said it, [but] he did say, ‘I’m sorry, I apologize,'” Lemon said of Hart.

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Lemon lost the plot a bit, acting visibly nervous, if not defensive, of Hart’s comments on “Straight From the Hart,” where he said he had no desire to be an ally to the LGBT community — something Lemon had urged him to become in his Jan. 4 critique.

“There are levels to homophobia, just like there are levels to racism,” Lemon explained, bringing up his own internalized homophobia towards effeminate men.

“He said, but it is not his dream to be an ally for the LGBT community,” Lemon continued. “Now, you can take that however want. You can be upset by it. Whatever. However you want to feel. But that is his right. Whether I like it or not, whether you like it or not, that is his right.”

“So listen, there’s been a lot of Kevin backed out of hosting the Oscars, and on some level you can understand for him that it may feel like he’s under attack. Because he’s in the middle of it. But I will tell you for me as I relate to him and I can talk about my part, he’s not a victim,” Lemon said. “So listen to what he’s saying there. He wants to be accepted. He wants us to accept him. He wants to be embraced on his own merits. Isn’t that what the LGBT community wants? Isn’t that the same thing they were asking for, to be embraced on their own merits and not be stereotyped and stigmatized? So maybe — right? An olive branch in an effort to understand.”

Hart was announced as the host of the 91st annual Academy Awards Dec. 4, but stepped down following backlash over homophobic tweets from the early 2000s. The matter was considered mostly closed until Jan. 3, when Hart told Variety that he had no intention of returning to the Oscars as host, but hours later told Ellen DeGeneres that he may in fact be reconsidering the offer. The Academy revealed the following day it would still be willing to accept Hart as a host if he approached the group about returning.

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Kevin Hart out and about
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NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 05: Kevin Hart promotes his new book, 'I Can't Make This Up: Life Lessons' at Barnes & Noble Union Square on June 5, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 05: Actors Kevin Hart and Kate Mara pose for a photo at the SiriusXM Studios on June 5, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 04: Kevin Hart speaks during the ' Kevin Hart LiveQ and A at BookCon 2017 at Javits Center on June 4, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 04: Kevin Hart attends a meet and greet during the BookCon 2017 at Javits Center on June 4, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 02: Comedian Kevin Hart performs on the Colossal Stage during the 2017 Colossal Clusterfest at Civic Center Plaza and The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on June 2, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 1: Jay-Z and Kevin Hart are seen at the game between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers during Game One of the 2017 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena on June 1, 2017 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: GAME NIGHT - Jimmy Kimmel Live: Game Night special edition episodes air in primetime every night of the NBA Finals. The guest for Thursday, June 1 included Kevin Hart ('Captain Underpants'). (Randy Holmes via Getty Images) KEVIN HART
JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: GAME NIGHT - Jimmy Kimmel Live: Game Night special edition episodes air in primetime every night of the NBA Finals. The guest for Thursday, June 1 included Kevin Hart ('Captain Underpants'). (Randy Holmes via Getty Images) KEVIN HART, JIMMY KIMMEL
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 23: Honoree actor/comedian Kevin Hart receives the Anne d'Harnoncourt Award for Artistic Excellence during the 32nd Annual Arts & Business Council Awards Celebration at Philadelphia Museum of Art on May 23, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 21: Actor Ed Helms (L) and actor/comedian Kevin Hart present an award during the 2017 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 21, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
WESTWOOD, CA - MAY 21: Actor Kevin Hart arrives at the premiere of 20th Century Fox's 'Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie' at the Regency Village Theatre on May 21, 2017 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)
WESTWOOD, CA - MAY 21: Actor Kevin Hart and his son Hendrix Hart arrive at the premiere of 20th Century Fox's 'Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie' at the Regency Village Theatre on May 21, 2017 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08: Kevin Hart seen out shopping in the Diamond District in Manhattan on May 8, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Robert Kamau/GC Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 30: Actor/comedian Kevin Hart arrives at the Rehab Beach Club pool party grand opening weekend at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on April 30, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 18: Kevin Hart attends Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on April 18, 2017 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 04: Actor/comedian Kevin Hart is seen leaving the 'Untouchable' Film wrap party at Stotesbury Mansion on April 4, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 20: Actor/comedian Kevin Hart is seen arriving to a surprise appearance at Punch Line Philly Comedy club to test out new material for his upcoming comedy tour on March 20, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 18: Ron 'Boss' Everline and Kevin Hart attend the 'Move with Hart' training sessions at Rumble Boxing on March 18, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 11: Actor Kevin Hart backstage at Nickelodeon's 2017 Kids' Choice Awards at USC Galen Center on March 11, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto Rodriguez/KCA2017/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 11: (L-R) Heaven Hart, actor Kevin Hart and Hendrix Hart at Nickelodeon's 2017 Kids' Choice Awards at USC Galen Center on March 11, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 04: Eniko Parrish and Kevin Hart attend Cleveland Cavaliers Vs. New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden on February 4, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 01: Actor/comedian Kevin Hart is seen on set of 'The Untouchables' on February 1, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 27: Recording artist Meek Mill and comedian Kevin Hart look on during the game between the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on January 27, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Kevin Hart poses for a portrait at the 2017 People's Choice Awards at the Microsoft Theater on January 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Smallz & Raskind/Getty Images Portrait)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 18: (L-R) Eniko Parrish, actor Kevin Hart, TV personality Ellen DeGeneres, and actress Portia de Rossi attend the People's Choice Awards 2017 at Microsoft Theater on January 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for People's Choice Awards)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 16: Kevin Hart (R) and Eniko Parrish attend a basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on January 16, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images)
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