While debate is bound to linger across the internet as to whether actor Will Smith was justified for slapping comedian Chris Rock, Smith chose his side on the matter Monday in a public statement on social media as video of a prior incident began to recirculate.
The Best Actor winner for his portrayal of Richard Williams in the film “King Richard,” about the life of the coach and father to Venus and Serena Williams, had responded poorly to a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.
Rock referenced her shaved head and suggested her next role would be in a “G.I. Jane” film while presenting at the 94th Academy Awards.
As reported, Smith then marched up to Rock and slapped the comedian across the face before returning to his seat and verbally chastising the victim until it was agreed there would be no further comment on Pinkett Smith.
Though he had apologized to the event in his acceptance speech, Smith had said nothing to Rock until Monday night.
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“Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense,” Smith acknowledged, “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,” Smith declared of the fault in his behavior. “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 then reiterated his apologies to the Academy, the viewers, the Williams Family and all those who participated in the making of the film over his deep regret that his “behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us.”
“I am a work in progress,” Smith concluded sincerely.
A spokesperson for the film academy told Variety on Monday, “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.”
A decade-old incident from a promotional tour of the film “Men in Black 3” has some wondering what kind of actual progress the actor has made. While walking the red carpet in Moscow, Russia in 2012, Smith had an interaction with a Ukrainian prankster named Vitalii Sediuk.
Sediuk, who Newsweek reported has had multiple arrests for incidents harassing other celebrities including Brad Pitt and America Ferrera, embraced Smith before beginning to forcibly kiss him.
y’all remember will smith slapped a reporter? pic.twitter.com/uVkCgIrzXr
— speedy morman (@SpeedyMorman) March 28, 2022
— Tory (@betterlucklater) March 28, 2022
“What the hell is your problem, man?” Smith asked as he pushed Sediuk away and gave him a light backhand slap on the cheek. The actor then continued down the line of journalists and stated, “He tried to kiss me on my mouth. The joker, he lucky I didn’t sucker punch him.”
“Oh sorry,” Smith added. “I said that on camera.”
Recalling the altercation with the prankster in a 2018 interview, Smith explained how rapper Jay-Z had spoken to him about it and found it so entertaining the music mogul wanted to watch it on a loop.
“We talked about it after,” the actor stated in the interview, “and he was like ‘it was such a breath of fresh air to see you just be authentic.'”
“It was my natural reaction, but I thought that it would be negative and everything but in this new social media world,” Smith continued as he laughed through the reminiscence, “actually the authenticity was accepted and respected, and that was a new thing for me.”
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