“Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable,” wrote Smith in a statement posted to Instagram on Monday evening. “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. 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.”
Prior to announcing the winner for documentary feature, Rock cracked a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair, prompting her husband Smith to walk up to Rock and strike him with his open hand.
The US broadcast quickly cut the sound, but the international feed captured the full interaction. Rock said, “Wow, Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me.” Smith returned to his seat, where he yelled out, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!”
“Wow, dude, it was a G.I. Jane joke,” Rock retorted. Smith yelled again, “Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth!” (Pinkett Smith announced last year that she had shaved her head after struggling with alopecia.)
In Monday’s statement, Smith also apologized to “the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world,” as well as “the Williams Family and my King Richard Family.” (Smith won Best Actor for his portrayal of the Williams sisters’ father, Richard Williams, in the film King Richard.)
“I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us,” Smith said, before closing his apology by saying, “I am a work in progress.”
Smith initially addressed the incident during his acceptance speech for Best Actor. “Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things.” However, in his speech he did not apologize to Rock. And just hours later, he was seen rapping and dancing along to his song “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” at an Oscars afterparty, seemingly unfazed by the evening’s events.
On Monday afternoon, the Academy said it had launched a “formal review” of Smith’s conduct, and will “explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law.”
Ed Note. Check out our timeline of Will Smith and Chris Rock’s fair-weather friendship.