Academy ‘Condemns the Actions’ of Will Smith, Opens Formal Review to ‘Explore Further Action’

CNN's Chloe Melas received word from an Academy source just "moments ago" that after the slap the Academy did consider approaching Will Smith and escorting him off the premises last night before his category was announced.
at the 94th Academy Awards held at Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center on March 27th, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
Will Smith slaps Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars
Christopher Polk for Variety

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has released a new statement about what actions they’re taking regarding Will Smith slapping Chris Rock onstage at the 94th Academy Awards ceremony Sunday night.

“The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show,”  the statement said. “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 statement is issued amid new reports that Academy officials “strongly considered” removing Smith from the ceremony after the slap but before the Best Actor category was presented.

During the ceremony, presenter Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith being in “G.I. Jane 2” because of her short hair. Will Smith rushed the stage and smacked Rock while the comedian was about to present the Best Documentary Oscar to “Summer of Soul.”

“Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me,” Rock said following the altercation.

Smith yelled from his seat, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

Pinkett Smith has previously been vocal about having a hair-loss condition. However, sources told TMZ that Rock was unaware of Pinkett Smith’s alopecia diagnosis and left the ceremony immediately after wrapping up his presenting duties.

Smith then went on to win Best Actor for “King Richard” about 40 minutes later.

The Academy issued a statement later Sunday night saying it “does not condone violence.” Now, reports on People.com and on CNN say that Oscar producers considered escorting Smith off the premises before his Best Actor category was announced.

During the 2:30 p.m. ET on-air broadcast of CNN, entertainment reporter Chloe Melas said that on a Zoom for Academy members this morning, “People were upset the Academy released the statement they did last night about not condoning violence and saying nothing else. Others said they think this will blow over.”

PEOPLE reported that there were a lot of “bifurcated opinions weighing in on what had just happened and what was the best and quickest course of action.”

A source stated that people on the scene were “checking that Chris Rock was okay” following the incident. 

“Basically there were just minutes to first figure out if it was a stunt and then try and get people on the same page — including the producers, ABC, the Academy, reps who were not all in the same place or all looking at their phones in real time, and even to see if Chris wanted to press charges,” the source explained. “You can’t plan for something like this and make a split-second decision that needs everyone’s buy-in, and in any iteration that would have consequences. 

Variety further added that a quick meeting of Academy leadership did convene at the Loews Hotel, where the Governors Ball was to take place. The determination at that meeting was that there was nothing in the existing bylaws to address a situation like this. By that point, Smith had already been presented with his Oscar.

The source added that “having Will removed was definitely discussed seriously.”

Academy Awards producer Will Packer tweeted in defense of his Oscars ceremony that he knew it “wouldn’t be boring” following the Smith-Rock assault: “Black people have a defiant spirit of laughter when it comes to dealing with pain because there has been so much of it. I don’t feel the need to elucidate that for you. But I also don’t mind being transparent and say that this was a very painful moment for me. On many levels.”

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