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It was the slap seen around the world when Will Smith clocked Chris Rock during Sunday's Oscars while defending wife Jada Pinkett Smith. The day after, there's no shortage of reactions and memes and to the jaw-dropping moment.
The King Richard star, who went on to win for Best Actor, stormed the stage after Rock make a G.I. Jane joke about Jada's shaved head and then hurled F-bombs at a startled Rock from his seat. The background: There was more than one joke during the night directed at the Smiths (earlier, Regina Hall joked about their open marriage) — and Rock has targeted Jada publicly in the past. This particular dig, however, landed flat as Jada has the hair loss condition alopecia, and started shaving her head last year because her hair has been falling out. While Smith initially laughed at Rock's joke, he then lost his cool, resulting in the disturbing display.
The shocking smack, at the industry's most prestigious event, garnered reactions from actors, comedians, directors, radio and TV hosts, authors and politicians. Right away in the telecast, presenter Combs vowed to help Smith and Rock make amends after the show and last year's Best Actor Anthony Hopkins, also a presenter, called for "peace, love and quiet" after the upsetting situation. Reactions then followed on social media and beyond, including from the Academy to the original Aunt Viv...
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences quickly condemned the act of "violence" broadcast to over 200 countries around the globe.
The Academy does not condone violence of any form.
Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) March 28, 2022
Rosie O'Donnell called it "a sad display of toxic masculinity from a narcissistic madman."
so upsetting - on every level - bravo to Chris Rock - for not eviscerating will smith - which he could do any day of the week - he walked away - bravo from a sad display of toxic masculinity from a narcissistic madman #Oscars2022 #chrisROCK
— ROSIE (@Rosie) March 28, 2022
Director Rob Reiner said Smith owes Rock an apology. "There is no excuse for what he did."
Will Smith owes Chris Rock a huge apology. There is no excuse for what he did. He’s lucky Chris is not filing assault charges. The excuses he made tonight were bullshit.
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) March 28, 2022
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith also called it "bulls**t," saying there was "no excuse" for that behavior by the Best Actor winner.
There’s no excuse for that, Will Smith. pic.twitter.com/v8u8PtQRMX
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) March 28, 2022
Judd Apatow also condemned the violence against Rock, but he ended up deleting his tweets.
"He could have killed him," the director wrote. "That’s pure out of control rage and violence. They’ve heard a million jokes about them in the last three decades. They are not freshman in the world of Hollywood and comedy. He lost his mind."
— Kate Aurthur (@KateAurthur) March 28, 2022
Apatow, seemingly unaware of the alopecia, also wrote, "Seems like Will Smith's plan to get comedians and the world to not make jokes about him is not going to pan out. The Williams family must be furious. Pure narcissism. Also- GI Jane was gorgeous. What exactly is insulting about being compared to a ripped, stunning Demi?" Also, "Will Smith screwed over who deserved his moment without that toxic nonsense before him. I’m glad Chris is ok. Will learned nothing training for Ali. Will Smith's punches are as soft as his raps." However, he reconsidered his posts amid criticism of them — including by some people asking why he wasn't as harsh criticizing James Franco.
Howard Stern weighed on his radio show, "What you saw on TV was a guy with real issues. That’s crazy when you can’t contain yourself." He also questioned why there was no security to stop it. "You don’t have someone come up there? Chris Rock was just trying to make people laugh at the f**king ceremony, which was so long and boring."
Kathy Griffin called it "very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a comedian. Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters."
Let me tell you something, it’s a very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a Comedian.
Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters.
— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) March 28, 2022
The Today show's Craig Melvin faced backlash after saying on the air Monday that Smith’s behavior aided "this long-held perception … that men of color can't control their rage and anger."
Author Glennon Doyle took issue with Smith saying in his Best Actor acceptance speech that he, like his King Richard character, Richard Williams, is "a fierce defender of my family." Smith also apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees, but not Rock.
"Violence is never 'proof of love," the Untamed writer tweeted. "That's a deadly idea that has fueled and excused domestic (and all) violence for far too long. Think hard about that, please."
While she left up her post, Doyle modified the caption saying she'd be stepping back from the conversation after criticism that, as a white woman, it's not a conversation for her to lead.
Paul Stanley called the display, especially the audience's embrace of Smith later during his acceptance speech, "weak."
Wait... Chris Rock makes a bad joke about Jada Pinkett’s appearance. Will Smith walks onstage hits him in the face shouts out obscenities & later in tears accepts an Oscar saying “Love makes you do crazy things” to a STANDING OVATION?!? WTF Hollywood. That’s not WOKE. That’s WEAK
— Paul Stanley (@PaulStanleyLive) March 28, 2022
The View's Ana Navarro, who said she like many thought it was a joke, called it "men behaving badly." Sunny Hostin called it "a show of toxic masculinity."
"It was men behaving badly," @ananavarro says of Will Smith and Chris Rock's altercation at the #Oscars.
"Nothing ... condones violence in this form." https://t.co/cVclFZQmjA pic.twitter.com/OJuM6gqdV5
— The View (@TheView) March 28, 2022
David Spade couldn't believe the root of the entire thing was a G.I. Jane joke.
A GI Jane joke???
— David Spade (@DavidSpade) March 28, 2022
The Real World: Seattle's Irene McGee, who was famously slapped by Stephen Williams on the MTV show in 1998, showed support for Rock.
"A message to Chris Rock from Irene from the Real World Seattle," she wrote. "It gets better."
— Irene McGee (@springfever) March 28, 2022
But there was a lot of support for Smith — and not just from his son Jaden.
And That’s How We Do It
— Jaden (@jaden) March 28, 2022
Jabari Banks, who plays a young Will in the Fresh Prince reboot Bel-Air, supported his boss.
"It’s what he said" in his acceptance speech, the actor told Entertainment Tonight. "You have to protect your family, I believe in him, and what he stands for. He’s a standup guy. I’ll stick by him."
Tiffany Haddish, Jada's Girls Trip co-star, actually called the smack "the most beautiful thing I've ever seen." Hear her out:
"As a woman, who has been unprotected, for someone to say, 'Keep my wife's name out your mouth, leave my wife alone,' that's what your husband is supposed to do, right? Protect you," Haddish said to People. "That meant the world to me. And maybe the world might not like how it went down, but for me, it was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen because it made me believe that there are still men out there that love and care about their women, their wives."
She also said that Rock should have run the joke by the Smiths in advance. However, the dynamic between Rock and the Smiths is unclear. Rock and Smith go way back, the comedian guests on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in the ’90s, but he also made the Smiths a target of his jokes before, so clearly it festered.
Meanwhile, the original Aunt Viv, Janet Hubert — who famously beefed with Smith for decades before making up in 2020 and appearing on the Fresh Prince reunion show — was also with Smith on this one. She wrote on social media that she's "so PROUD" of Smith, despite the dust-up, and noted, "there is only so much one can take ... sometimes you have to slap back."
While "both actions were incorrect, Hubert criticized Rock for going there. "Met him once ... it was enough for me," she wrote. She called Rock "mean-spirited" and said he is "always disrespecting Black women."
@janethubertformyfanspage https://t.co/OjJoYBcXOl I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to slap the mess out of so many folks who have disrespected me. Will stood up for his wife, Chris Rock is always disrespecting Black women. Mean spirited hides behind comedy.BULL
— Janet Hubert (@OGJanetHubert) March 28, 2022
Meanwhile, Reps. Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts and Jamaal Bowman from New York both posted and then deleted tweets defending Smith.
"#Alopecia nation stand up! Thank you #WillSmith,” tweeted Pressley, who also has the condition. “Shout out to all the husbands who defend their wives living with alopecia in the face of daily ignorance & insults... Women with baldies are for real men only…boys need not apply."
Bowman reportedly posted and deleted, "Teachable Moment: Don't joke about a Black Woman's hair."
Marlon Wayans told People he expected a quick resolution to the drama, but he said Smith was obviously "going through something" when he snapped.
"We all respect each other as artists, as individuals, as Black men, as men in general, and this is not the way we conduct ourselves, fellas, and we get better," he said. "That's all. You can have mistakes sometimes. Mistakes, that's the best thing to have because moving forward we know that's never going to happen again."
Sophia Bush was Team "They Both Need a Breather."
Violence isn’t ok. Assault is never the answer. Also? This is the 2nd time that Chris has made fun of Jada on the #Oscars stage, & tonight he went after her alopecia. Punching down at someone’s auto-immune disease is wrong. Doing so on purpose is cruel. They both need a breather.
— Sophia Bush (@SophiaBush) March 28, 2022
Diddy, who revealed the men made amends amid the drama, tried to stay neutral. Late Sunday night, he said that the beef between the meN is "over. I can confirm that. It's all love. They’re brothers." However, he still seemed genuinely shocked that Smith hit Rock.
"Chris Rock got a chin though," Diddy said, genuinely seeming surprised — and he's seen some things.
There were even jokes about it all, for better or worse.
Just saw the Will Smith slap. Anyone have a late night show I can borrow just for tomorrow?
— Conan O'Brien (@ConanOBrien) March 28, 2022
So disappointing that Will Smith played Muhammad Ali but he couldn't even knock out Chris Rock.
— Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack) March 28, 2022
— Kandi Burruss (@Kandi) March 28, 2022
And another person named Will Smith had a moment on social media.
— Will Smith (@willsmith) March 28, 2022
Many memes were also born, including ones stemming from the Men In Black memory eraser.
— Anneliese Bustillo (@anni_magus) March 28, 2022
Andrew is 100% scrolling thru Twitter to see what everyone is saying about the Will Smith thing. pic.twitter.com/6ivx7JsZdE
— guada 🦇 (@stonemayi) March 28, 2022
— yuhyuh (@amrieass) March 28, 2022
Organizers of the Oscars considered removing Smith after he hit Rock, People magazine reported Monday.
"Behind the scenes there were a lot of people, and different voices and bifurcated opinions, weighing in on what had just happened and what was the best and quickest course of action. People were also checking that Chris Rock was okay," an industry insider told the outlet. "Basically there were just minutes to first figure out if it was a stunt and then try and get people on the same page — including the producers, ABC, the Academy, reps who were not all in the same place or all looking at their phones in real time, and even to see if Chris wanted to press charges."
Rock did not opt to file charges, the LAPD has said.
Smith later attended the Vanity Fair Oscars party, dancing to his hit "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" with Oscar in hand. He arrived with his wife and three children and was cheered on during his one-man dance party.