LOS ANGELES (NewsNation) — It was the slap heard around the world.
Will Smith walked onto the Oscar stage at the Dolby Theatre Sunday evening and smacked Chris Rock across the face for making a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, a jarring interruption to Hollywood’s biggest award ceremony.
Moments later, Smith won the Best Actor Oscar for his role in “King Richard.”
“This moment will now forever be shadowed for Will Smith. We won’t remember Will Smith winning the Oscar this year. People will remember it as, ‘Oh that’s the year Will Smith open-handed slapped or punched Chris Rock,'” entertainment journalist Josh McBride said on “Morning in America.” “Unfortunately that is now completely overshadowed. That really didn’t need to happen.”
Smith walked onto the stage from his front-row seat and took a swing at Rock with an open palm, generating a loud smack. Smith walked back to his seat and shouted for Rock to leave Pinkett Smith alone. Rock replied that he was just making a “G.I. Jane” joke — and Smith yelled back at him a second time.
After the show, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences issued a statement saying it “does not condone violence of any form.”
The Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement that it was aware of the incident but that one of the parties declined to file a police report. NewsNation’s Ashleigh Banfield weighed in on “Morning in America,” warning that this may not be the end of the investigation.
“They [the LAPD] can act without the party filing a police report because assaults happen all the time. especially in domestic violence, where women don’t file a police report, but it’s obvious there’s a predator who’s a danger to society,” Banfield said. “I don’t think I would call Will Smith a danger to society. But the past reaction of how he turned and became violent, I think, is very troublesome. And at the very least, Adrienne, I think that the Academy should take some serious action. Not only did he assault someone live on television, on their stage, but then he also unleashed the string of profanities twice, during a live performance as well. And they do have a code of conduct.”
At the commercial break, presenter Daniel Kaluuya came up to hug Smith, and Denzel Washington escorted him to the side of the stage. The two talked and hugged, and Tyler Perry came over to talk as well.
Banfield warned of the negative ramifications of the slap being broadcast around the globe.
“People who are influenced by Will Smith watched that happen, and then watched three huge celebrities, Tyler Perry, Denzel Washington and Bradley Cooper snuggle up to Will Smith afterward to make sure he was OK,” Banfield said. “Because a comedian took a swipe, a joke, at his wife, which by the way, he laughed at the joke.
Smith shared what Washington told him: “At your highest moment, be careful because that’s when the devil comes for you.
The exchange began when Rock took aim at Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, saying, “Jada, I love you. ‘G.I. Jane 2.’ Can’t wait to see it, all right?” Rock’s reference was made from the 1997 film “G.I. Jane,” starring Demi Moore, who shaved her head to portray a fictional Navy SEAL candidate.
Smith shouted at Rock to “keep my wife’s name out of your (expletive) mouth,” and the crowd hushed as it became clear this was no act.
Pinkett Smith revealed in 2018 that she was diagnosed with alopecia. She has often discussed the challenges of hair loss on Instagram and other social media platforms.
“I think two things can be true, you can go too far as a comedian, and violence is never the answer,” McBride said.
Banfield implored the Academy to do a thorough investigation amid conflicting reports Smith knew about the joke in dress rehearsals.
“I do want to read you what in 2017, the Academy decided to do in the wake of all the ‘Me Too’ bad behavior, OK. They did pass this code of conduct, and I just want to read one little piece of it, and then your viewers can decide whether the Academy should put its money where its mouth is and actually do something about this,” Banfield told Adrienne Bankert. “But this is what they said, ‘There is no place in the Academy for people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates recognized standards of decency. The Academy is categorically opposed to any form of abuse, harassment, or discrimination based on the gender of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, age, religion, nationality.’ Well, I don’t know what you would say abuse is because they say any form of abuse. So what’s the Academy going to do about this?”
In his Best Actor acceptance speech, Smith apologized to the Academy.
“I’m hoping the Academy invites me back,” Smith said, as he concluded his on-stage remarks.