March 22, 2022

March 28, 2022 by Maria Puente and Marina Pitofsky

Chris Rock declined to file a police report Sunday after Will Smith slapped him onstage at the Academy Awards, Los Angeles police appeared to confirm.   

But now the Academy says it will investigate on its own, releasing a statement Monday afternoon: “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.”

This goes one step further than what the Academy said just after Sunday night’s show, which was basically that it didn’t condone violence. 

The moment that shocked Hollywood and millions of viewers came after Rock made a joke about a “G.I. Jane” sequel, referencing Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head. (Actress Demi Moore appeared in the 1997 movie with a shaved head.)

Smith appeared to laugh at first, before walking up to the stage, slapping Rock, returning to his seat and yelling, “Keep my wife’s name out of your (expletive) mouth.”

Pinkett Smith was seen rolling her eyes after Rock’s joke at the awards show. 

In 2018, she confirmed that she was diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune skin disease that can cause hair loss on the scalp and on other parts of the body. 

Has this ever happened at the Oscars before?

Not as far as Rachel Fiset knows. She’s a former lawyer for the Academy (now a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles) who used to be among the team of lawyers who, with city lawyers, would work the Oscars before the show, making sure people without tickets didn’t sneak in, and having them removed if they did. Then they’d get to go inside and enjoy the ceremony themselves. 

“(The Oscars show) is so warm and so friendly and so fun, and everyone is so excited – so this was really out of the norm,” she says. Nevertheless, what happened was “a crime, a misdemeanor, and it could absolutely be charged if the city attorney wanted to pursue it, but I have a hunch they won’t without Chris Rock’s cooperation.”

Why wasn’t Smith removed from his seat after the slap? It was possible to do so, Fiset says, but the lawyers are scattered throughout the audience and probably didn’t have time to come together to decide.

More to the point, she says, the show’s producers and lawyers doubtlessly “knew he was going to win” and taking him out would not have been a good look for anybody, especially the Academy. 

“The Academy is very conservative and I think not doing anything last night was a conservative approach,” she says. “On balance, the Academy made a fair decision in leaving him in the audience to win his Oscar, and then dealing with it today.”

She was impressed with Rock’s low-key reaction. The “joke” he told might have been mean but it wasn’t a crime. “He handled it perfectly,” she says. “Will Smith looks very angry, and did himself a lot of reputational harm.”

He will likely get Oscar’s slap-on-the-wrist punishment, she predicts.


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