Will Smith says he is ‘deeply remorseful’ over Chris Rock slap
By Julia Jacobs
Four months after slapping comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars, shocking audiences and prompting a decadelong ban from attending the ceremony, Will Smith posted a video Friday expressing regret over the incident and promising that he was doing “personal work” to address his behavior.
“It hurts me psychologically and emotionally to know I didn’t live up to people’s image and impression of me,” Smith said in the video. “I am deeply remorseful, and I’m trying to be remorseful without being ashamed of myself, right? I’m human, and I made a mistake.”
Smith, who resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences days after the ceremony, apologized to numerous people during the nearly six-minute video — starting with Rock, who had made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head shortly before Smith walked up and slapped him on live television. (Pinkett Smith has been open about her struggles with alopecia, a condition that leads to hair loss, and in a statement shortly after the incident, Smith said a joke about his wife’s medical condition was “too much for me to bear.”)
“Chris, I apologize to you,” Smith said in the video. “My behavior was unacceptable, and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.”
Shortly after the attack, Smith won the Oscar for best actor. In the video, he explained that he had failed to apologize to Rock during his speech because he was “fogged out” following the incident.
Smith said he had tried to contact Rock later on but had received a message in response that the comedian was not ready to talk and would reach out when he was. Smith apologized to Rock’s family, including his mother, Rosalie Rock, who gave a television interview saying, “When you hurt my child, you hurt me.”
He also apologized to his own family “for the heat that I brought on all of us,” as well as the other nominees that night for having tarnished their moment.
Pinkett Smith has said little about her own experience of that night, but last month, she centered an episode of her online talk show, Red Table Talk, on alopecia, interviewing a woman whose 12-year-old daughter died by suicide as a result of bullying over the condition.
Regarding the slap, Pinkett Smith said, “My deepest hope is that these two intelligent, capable men have an opportunity to heal, talk this out and reconcile.”
Rock has not publicly discussed his response to the attack in depth, but earlier last week, at a comedy show in Brooklyn, New York, he mentioned it in a joke. During a portion of his set that was focused on victimhood, he told the crowd that after Smith slapped him, he shook it off and “went to work the next day,” prompting sustained applause from the audience. A representative for Rock did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In Friday’s video, Smith seemed to be working to repair his reputation and reassure fans that his behavior at the ceremony did not reflect who he truly is, saying, “There is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment.”
“I know it was shocking, but I promise you, I am deeply devoted and committed to putting light and love and joy into the world,” he concluded. “If you hang on, I promise we’ll be able to be friends again.”