Will Smith has issued an apology for striking presenter Chris Rock at Sunday’s Academy Awards. In a post on Instagram on Monday afternoon, Smith called his behavior “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,” he wrote. “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.” Smith added in his post that, “Violence in all forms is poisonous and destructive.”
He also included in his note an apology to “the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world,” as well as the family of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams and those involved with the film for which he won his best actor award on Sunday.
“I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us,” he wrote. “I am a work in progress.”
The moment came after Rock made a joke about Pinkett Smith’s shaved head.
While presenting the award for best documentary, Rock joked, “Jada I love you, ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it.”
The camera cut to an unamused Pinkett Smith, who has been open about her struggle with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that leads to hair loss.
“That was a nice one,” Rock said, appearing to respond to the joke not going over well.
Rock then said, “Oh uh,” and laughed as Smith walked toward him on stage and slapped Rock on the face.
According to CNN reporter Stephanie Elam, who is in the audience, she could hear Rock getting hit. Smith said twice during the incident, according to Elam, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth!” Rock responded: “Oh, wow.” For viewers at home, censors muted the verbal part of the exchange between Rock and Smith. The theater went silent and Rock said, “That was the greatest night in the history of television.”
Around 40 minutes later, Smith would take the stage again — this time as a winner.
Accepting his best actor award for his role in “King Richard,” a tearful Smith acknowledged the earlier incident and apologized to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Oscars, and fellow nominees. Notably, Rock was not mentioned by name. Smith said, “I know to do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse and have people talk people about you. In this business, you gotta have people disrespecting you. And you gotta smile and pretend that’s ok.” Smith shared that prior to his win, fellow nominee Denzel Washington shared some wisdom with him: “At your highest moment be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”
Smith ended saying that he hopes the Academy welcomes him back.