Not long after the conclusion of the 2022 Oscars, the social media arm of the academy issued a statement denouncing violence. Why did they do this? Because Best Actor winner Will Smith, before he won his long-anticipated Academy Award, had gotten up from his seat during the ceremony and slapped comedian Chris Rock across the face.
Rock, who was on hand to present Best Documentary to “Summer of Soul” (good movie, by the way), made a crack about Jada Pinkett Smith appearing in “G.I. Jane 2.” The actress suffers from alopecia, a condition that causes baldness, so even though Rock was following a long tradition of ribbing the celebs in the front rows, this gag was considerably beneath his usual talents. After Smith smacked the comic, Rock cried out, “Will Smith just smacked the sh-t out of me!” The actor called back, “keep my wife’s name out of your f–king mouth!” When Rock responded, “Wow, dude, it was a ‘G.I. Jane’ joke,” Smith repeated his request, even louder, and with a pretty serious look on his face.
VIA JAPANESE TELEVISION: The uncensored exchange between Will Smith and Chris Rock pic.twitter.com/j0Z184ZyXa
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) March 28, 2022
Within the same hour, was announced as the winner of Best Actor for his “King Richard” performance. His lengthy speech, which played well inside the Dolby Theatre, included an apology to both the academy and his fellow nominees (but not, notably, Rock).
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
This was, to put it mildly, a rather extraordinary turn of events for the movie industry’s typically self-congratulatory night. Unless I’m forgetting something, no one ever hit Bob Hope. Naturally, everyone watching at home took this very calmly.
No, that’s not true, social media went positively bananas, as is its birthright.
One user repurposed the reactions to the “La La Land”/“Moonlight” screw-up.
Everyone at the Oscar’s when Will Smith assaulted Chris Rock on national television #Oscars pic.twitter.com/VX7EzFyJ22
— LORRAKON (@LORRAKON) March 28, 2022
Conan O’Brien felt the pain of being retired.
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
Some kept their eyes on the other stars.
LUPITA IN THE BEHIND WILL SMITH IS KILLING ME #AcademyAwards pic.twitter.com/BtITt6SC4R
— matt murdocks gf ♡ (@omgmattmurdock) March 28, 2022
Andrew Garfield texting the other Peter Parkers to see if Will Smith slapped Chris Rock in their universes too pic.twitter.com/k4lIi6S73e
— S̷h̷e̷i̷k̷h̷🌟 D̷a̷n̷i̷y̷a̷l̷🔥 (@SheikhDaniyaI24) March 28, 2022
And here’s a reminder that there’s a “Family Guy” clip for everything.
Will Smith pic.twitter.com/CgbQC1zaEl
— Auron (@auronplay) March 28, 2022
Rob Reiner said he thought Smith was lucky that Rock didn’t file charges. (In a statement, the Los Angeles Police Department said, “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program. The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”)
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
And comedy writer Jennifer Crittenden may have found the source for all this chaos.
This is why you don't say Macbeth in a theater, @chrisrock. #oscars
— Jen Crittenden (@JenCrittenden) March 28, 2022
Judd Apatow also supported his comedy buddy, claiming Smith could have “killed” Rock, and calling the slap “pure out of control rage and violence.” He deleted the tweet, though, after he was roundly criticized online.
The New York Post, meanwhile, printed an instant-classic front page.
Today's Cover: Will Smith wins Best Actor Oscar for ‘King Richard’ after Chris Rock punch https://t.co/wYvTovtrI9 pic.twitter.com/Ue2LUINbOC
— New York Post (@nypost) March 28, 2022
Incidentally, despite the controversy, the Smith family did attend the lavish Vanity Fair Oscar party, posing for pics as if nothing had happened.
First-time #Oscar winner #WillSmith celebrates with his family inside the #VFOscars portrait studio.
Photographed by Mark Seliger
🔗: https://t.co/bxYEHFi1c5 pic.twitter.com/JllgW1Yx2b
— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) March 28, 2022
But Oscars producer Will Packer can have the last word:
Welp…I said it wouldn’t be boring #Oscars
— Will Packer (@willpowerpacker) March 28, 2022