It’s been four months since actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars after he made a joke about Smith’s wife actor Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss during the awards’ live telecast.
But unlike most big moments at the annual awards bash which fade from the top of everyone’s minds, this one has lived on in infamy ever since–surely in part because there’s been no closure for the shocking moment.
While Rock has been fairly open about the astonishing moment, even working it into his act, Smith and Pinkett Smith have played things pretty close to the vest. Until now, that is.
Late last week, Smith posted a nearly six-minute video to YouTube, finally acknowledging the elephant in the room head-on and issuing a remorseful apology to Rock for the “slap heard round the world.” See it below.
Part of what made the incident so shocking was how less than an hour later, Smith went on to win the Best Actor award for KingRichard and give an effusive speech that not only contained no apology but seemed to obliquely defend his actions.
Smith addressed this in his video, explaining that he didn’t apologize at that moment.
“I was fogged out by that point. It’s all fuzzy.”
He went on to explain that he has attempted to reach out to Rock directly, but that Rock is “not ready” to address it. Smith said:
“I’ve reached out to Chris and the message that came back is that he’s not ready to talk and when he is, he will reach out.”
Smith then issued his apology not only to Rock but to his mother and brother who have both given interviews about how the incident impacted them.
“So I will say to you, Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.”
“…I want to apologize to Chris’s mother… that was one of the things I just didn’t realize. I wasn’t thinking, but how many people got hurt in that moment…
I want to apologize to Chris’s family, specifically Tony Rock. We had a great relationship. Tony Rock was my man. This is probably irreparable.”
And in a reversal from his Oscars speech, Smith went on to call the incident “unacceptable.”
“I spent the last three months replaying and understanding the nuance and complexity of what happened in that moment… there is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment.”
On social media, many appreciated Smith speaking out.
But others felt it was insincere and a publicity stunt.
And many felt it wasn’t Smith who owed the apology, feeling instead that it is Rock who bears responsibility for the incident for having insulted Pinkett Smith.
It seems the controversy over this event may never fully die down.