Academy claims Will Smith refused to leave Oscars after Chris Rock slap

In a statement released Wednesday evening following a meeting of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences board of governors, academy leadership claimed Will Smith “refused” to leave Sunday’s Oscars ceremony after he slapped Chris Rock across the face.

“Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated. While we would like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently,” read a statement from the academy. The academy did not specify who asked Smith to leave specifically, or if the information was relayed to Smith by a third party. (Page Six previously reported producer Will Packer, academy president David Rubin and academy CEO Dawn Hudson, and representatives for Smith had convened in the immediate aftermath of the incident. Packer was among those who approached Smith inside the Dolby Theatre during the commercial break.) Smith has not yet commented on the academy’s assertion, but in a piece published by Variety on Thursday morning, the academy account of what happened was strongly refuted, with a suggestion that Packer himself had reportedly asked Smith to stay at the event.

The academy’s surprising revelation came at the very end of its statement on Wednesday, which also included an apology to Rock and further condemnation of Smith.

“Mr. Smith’s actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television. Mr. Rock, we apologize to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment,” the statement read. “We also apologize to our nominees, guests and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event.”

During the board of governors meeting on Wednesday, the academy said it had “initiated disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the integrity of the Academy.” When the board meets again on April 18, Smith could face disciplinary actions, including “suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions permitted by the Bylaws and Standards of Conduct.”

On Sunday night, before presenting Best Documentary to “Summer of Soul,” Rock mocked Jada Pinkett Smith, Smith’s wife, with a joke about her bald head (Pinkett Smith has alopecia and shaves her head as a result). After first apparently laughing at Rock’s zinger, Smith then walked up on stage and proceeded to slap Rock. When he returned to his seat, Smith shouted at Rock to “keep my wife’s name out of your f–king mouth.” Later in the ceremony, Smith won Best Actor for his performance in “King Richard,” and referenced the incident in his speech – but stopped short of apologizing to Rock. (He did apologize to the academy and to his fellow nominees.)

In the hours after the Oscars, Smith and his family celebrated at the Vanity Fair Oscars party. Late Monday afternoon, Smith released an official apology statement. “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally,” Smith 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.”

He added, “I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family. I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us. I am a work in progress.”

Despite his apology, Smith has been sharply criticized. Oscars co-host Wanda Sykes said Smith’s outburst and the academy’s response were “gross,” while co-host Amy Schumer said she was left “traumatized” by what happened.

One person who hadn’t said anything publicly in the wake of the slap was Rock himself. But the comic finally addressed the shocking event during a stand-up comedy show in Boston on Wednesday night. 

“I don’t have a bunch of shit about what happened, so if you came to hear that, I have a whole show I wrote before this weekend,” Rock said. “I’m still kind of processing what happened. So, at some point, I’ll talk about that shit. And it will be serious and funny.”

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