Academy Did Not Formally Ask Will Smith To Leave After Chris Rock Slap, Insiders Claim
On March 30, the Academy released a statement that said, “Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated. While we would like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently,” per Variety.
Now, sources with knowledge of the moments immediately following the Rock slap have come out against the claim, saying the Academy and the show’s producer “sent mixed messages” about how to respond to Smith’s actions, according to Variety. The insiders said some no longer wanted Smith at the ceremony, but that no one officially requested the actor leave.
Another source reportedly told Variety the King Richard star “was asked to leave” by a representative at the show acting on behalf of Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson. Sources at the event said Oscars producer Will Packer was reportedly instrumental in Smith staying. Two witnesses reportedly said Packer spoke with Smith in the audience in the time between the slap and his Best Actor win. One claimed Packer told Smith they “officially” wanted him to remain in the auditorium. A source close to Packer said that claim was not true, but Packer himself has not made a statement.
On March 28, sources backstage at the Oscars told Variety what happened behind the scenes after the slap. The reaction was reportedly that of shock, and the surprise of it all produced a long delay in action. Viewers wondered why Smith wasn’t asked to leave in response to his actions. These insiders claimed it was because those deliberating didn’t reach a consensus about what to do before Best Actor was announced. They also claimed the “optics” of Smith being ejected from the ceremony were taken into consideration.
Smith is facing disciplinary action for the slap. The Academy announced on Tuesday, March 29 it was launching a formal review of the incident and its possible violations of its code of conduct. Smith could face sanctions and expulsion from the organization. He has reportedly been given 15 days notice of a vote regarding the incident and subsequent consequences and has the opportunity to provide a written response. The group will vote on April 18.
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Smith’s actions were out of defense of his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, after Rock delivered an improvised joke insulting her hair. Pinkett Smith has alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss. She shaved her head in response to her symptoms. Smith apologized for his conduct in a public statement on Instagram on March 28, saying the insult of his partner’s appearance was too much for him handle.
“Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive,” he began the open letter. “My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. 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.”
“I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong,” he continued. “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.” Read his full statement above.
The Academy’s March 30 statement also apologized to Rock. “Mr. Rock, we apologize to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment,” it said. “We also apologize to our nominees, guests and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event.”
Pinkett Smith responded to the controversy in a short comment on Instagram that read, “This is the season for healing. And I’m here for it.”
At a previously scheduled comedy show in Boston on March 30, Rock briefly addressed the moment with the audience before starting his set. “I’m still kind of processing what happened,” he said. “So, at some point, I’ll talk about that s**t. And it will be serious and funny.”