CNN

Will Smith issues apology to Chris Rock over slapping incident at Oscars

Mar 28, 2022, 6:27 PM
US actor Will Smith accepts the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for "King Richard" onstage d...
US actor Will Smith accepts the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for "King Richard" onstage during the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on March 27, 2022. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

 (CNN) — Will Smith has issued an apology for striking presenter Chris Rock at Sunday’s Academy Awards.

In a post on Instagram on Monday afternoon, Smith called his behavior “unacceptable and inexcusable.”

An apology from Will Smith

“Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally,” he wrote. “I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”

Smith added in his post that, “Violence in all forms is poisonous and destructive.”

He also included in his note an apology to “the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world,” as well as the family of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams and those involved with the film for which he won his best actor award on Sunday.

“I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us,” he wrote. “I am a work in progress.”

What happened

Smith on Sunday caused a stir that changed the tone of an otherwise uplifting Oscars ceremony when he stormed the stage and struck comedian Rock in the face.

The moment came after Rock made a joke about Pinkett Smith’s shaved head.

While presenting the award for best documentary, Rock joked, “Jada I love you, ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it.”

The camera cut to an unamused Pinkett Smith, who has been open about her struggle with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that leads to hair loss.

“That was a nice one,” Rock said, appearing to respond to the joke not going over well.

Rock then said, “Oh uh,” and laughed as Smith walked toward him on stage and slapped Rock on the face.

According to CNN reporter Stephanie Elam, who is in the audience, she could hear Rock getting hit. Smith said twice during the incident, according to Elam, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth!”

Rock responded: “Oh, wow.”

For viewers at home, censors muted the verbal part of the exchange between Rock and Smith.

The theater went silent and Rock said, “That was the greatest night in the history of television.”

The Will Smith win overshadowed

Around 40 minutes later, Smith would take the stage again — this time as a winner.

Accepting his best actor award for his role in “King Richard,” a tearful Smith acknowledged the earlier incident and apologized to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscars, and fellow nominees. Notably, Rock was not mentioned by name.

Smith said, “I know to do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse and have people talk people about you. In this business, you gotta have people disrespecting you. And you gotta smile and pretend that’s ok.”

Smith shared that prior to his win, fellow nominee Denzel Washington shared some wisdom with him: “At your highest moment be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

Smith ended saying that he hopes the Academy welcomes him back.

CNN has reached out to Chris Rock’s representatives for comment.

Reaction

Following the ceremony, the Academy Awards tweeted a short statement about the on-stage incident that read: “The Academy does not condone violence of any form. Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”

The Los Angeles Police Department also said Rock chose not to press charges against Smith over the onstage altercation.

However, the reaction to the moment continued to boil overnight as after parties raged on and the morning came.

By midday on Monday, the Academy issued a stronger statement, this time condemning Smith’s actions and revealing they had started a “formal review around the incident.”

It added that it “will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law.”

Earlier on Monday, CNN learned that Academy leadership “strongly considered” removing Smith from the Oscars telecast after the incident, according to a source close to the situation.

“There were immediate discussions but the Academy decision makers were seated in various spots in the Dolby Theater and couldn’t mobilize to make a decision before he won best actor,” the source said.

At least a dozen members of the Academy met virtually on Monday morning to discuss a response to Smith slapping Rock, according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting.

The meeting was described as “heated” and “divided.” There was no agreement on further action, according to the sources.

The dozen members who met on their own volition and are being described as influential and recognizable members of the Academy, including actors and directors. The group does not have any disciplinary power, but they are considered high profile enough that the Board of Governor’s for the Academy could be influenced in any response they may have.

There are more than 9,000 voting members of the Academy, comprised of Hollywood artists and film executives.

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Will Smith issues apology to Chris Rock over slapping incident at Oscars