((Photo by ANGELA WEISS,ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images))
Smith, who won his first Best Actor award on Sunday, March 27, 2022, issued his mea culpa on Instagram.
“Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable,” he wrote in a post on Monday evening. “Jokes at my expense are part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally. 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.”
“I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family,” he continued. “I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us. I am a work in progress.”
At the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony, Rock made a joke at Jada Pinkett Smith‘s expense, comparing her bald head—a result of her ongoing and open struggle with alopecia—to Demi Moore‘s shaved head in G.I. Jane.
After Rock’s quip, Smith approached the stage and open-hand smacked Rock in the face. ABC then muted the audio from the broadcast, but videos from other countries showed Rock telling the crowd, “Will Smith just smacked the s**t out of me.” Smith yelled at Rock twice, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f**cking mouth.”
While Rock was visibly shaken, he commendably kept the show moving and even joked, “That was, uh … the greatest night in the history of television.”
Smith won the Best Actor Oscar shortly afterward for his title role of Serena and Venus Williams‘ father in King Richard. He compared himself to Richard Williams in his acceptance speech, telling the crowd tearfully that he admired Richard for “protecting his family.”
“It’s like, I wanna be a vessel for love. I wanna say thank you to Venus and Serena—I hope they didn’t see that on TV. I wanna be an ambassador that kind of love and care and concern. I wanna apologize to the Academy, to all my fellow nominees … Art imitates life, I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams! But love will make you do crazy things.” In the speech, he apologized to the Academy, as well as to the cast and crew of King Richard, but not to Rock.
Smith’s apology to the comedian came after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released a statement that read in part, “The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show. We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law.”
Rock reportedly declined to file a police report against Smith. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Academy held an emergency call to discuss potential disciplinary action against Smith, including possible suspension of his Academy membership.
Richard Williams also released a statement through his son and spokesman Chavoita LeSane condemning Smith’s actions but condoning him for his honor.
“We don’t know all the details of what happened, but we don’t condone anyone hitting anyone else unless it’s in self-defense,” the statement said (via Entertainment Tonight). “My father was as surprised as anyone when Will Smith suddenly retaliated against Chris Rock for making a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith on Sunday,” LeSane went on to share. “I want to congratulate Will on the Oscar. It was an honor to see him win Best Actor.”