Will Smith’s Slap Of Chris Rock Echoes Disgrace For Oscars

Will Smith striking Chris Rock onstage after taking issue with one of his jokes.
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Photos: Academy Awards\Facebook

The morning after the Oscars tends to be dominated by lighthearted celebrations of the night’s winners and admiring chatter about the fashion on the red carpet, but on Monday it was given to a more somber discussion of the disturbing spectacle that dominated the night: Will Smith striking Chris Rock onstage after taking issue with one of his jokes.

On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” George Stephanopoulos described it as “something we have never seen before, something that is very hard to process: Will Smith, walking up onto that stage after Chris Rock told a joke about his wife — simply assaulting Chris Rock.”

The Academy put out a statement saying that they do not condone violence, but Stephanopoulos noted they “have not taken any other action yet.”

“It changed the entire night,” the anchor Robin Roberts said.

The show cut to a correspondent in Los Angeles, T.J. Holmes, who said “it was ugly, it was embarrassing, it was confusing.” And despite all the awards history that was made on Sunday, he lamented, “here we are, leading off the show, and the story of the morning is about one man assaulting another on the Oscars stage.”

The powers-that-be at the Oscars had been intent on not repeating last year’s record-low ratings, putting a series of changes in place they hoped would draw more viewers: installing a trio of comics as hosts, pretaping some awards to try to quicken the pace, introducing a fan-favorite award that viewers could vote on. But this year’s broadcast became must-see television for a reason they did not anticipate.

“Welp…I said it wouldn’t be boring #Oscars,” Will Packer, one of the show’s producers, tweeted after the show.

The incident unfolded after Rock made a joke about the closely-cropped hair of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who has alopecia, a condition that leads to hair loss. At first some shocked viewers wondered if the blow might have been part of the show. After all, the previous two hours had been filled with gimmick after gimmick — including a bearded Wanda Sykes in short-shorts and knee-length socks, dressed as Smith’s character from “King Richard,” a performance for which he soon won an Oscar.

Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett-Smith at Oscars.

But when ABC cut out the sound, forcing audiences to lip read Smith screaming at Rock to keep his wife’s name out of his mouth, the reality of the situation settled in. Read more.

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