On July 29, Will Smith posted a video apology on his YouTube channel addressing his controversial slap of comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars in March. In the video, Smith expresses his intense remorse for the incident and apologizes to several key figures who he says were hurt by his actions.
“I spent the last three months replaying and understanding the nuances and the complexities of what happened in that moment. I’m not going to try to unpack all of that right now, but I can say to all of you, there is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment,” Smith said, speaking directly into the camera. “There’s no part of me that thinks that was the optimal way to handle a feeling of disrespect or insults.”
The incident occurred when Rock made a joke during the broadcast at the expense of Smith’s wife, fellow actor Jada Pinkett-Smith. Smith interpreted the joke to be a reference to his wife’s struggles with alopecia, and suddenly arose from his seat, walked onstage, and hit Rock in the face, causing confusion and overshadowing many of the events of the night, including his own Oscar win for Best Actor for his performance in King Richard.
In the new video, Smith covers three main questions that people have been posing since the slap: first, why Smith didn’t apologize to Rock during his acceptance speech later that night; second, whether Pinkett-Smith encouraged him to confront Rock; and third, what Smith has to say to people who struggle to reconcile his actions with his position as a role model.
“I was fogged out by that point. It’s all fuzzy. I’ve reached out to Chris and the message that came back is that he’s not ready to talk, and when he is, he will reach out,” Smith said in response to the first question, which appears as text across the bottom of the video. “My behavior was unacceptable and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.”
Smith directed the first apology to Rock, Rock’s family, Rock’s mother, and Tony Rock, Chris Rock’s brother, who Smith said he had had a friendship with before the slap. Smith then moved on to apologize to his own family and his fellow Academy Award nominees who he overshadowed that night.
“Disappointing people is my central trauma. I hate when I let people down. It hurts me psychologically and emotionally to know that I didn’t live up to people’s image and impression of me,” Smith said. “I am deeply remorseful and I’m trying to be remorseful without being ashamed of myself. I’m human and I made a mistake and I’m trying not to think of myself as a piece of sh-t.”
Smith posted the video to his YouTube channel where he has 9.83 million followers. It’s the first video Smith has posted there since the Oscars four months ago. After the slap, there was speculation that Smith may speak out during a high-profile sit-down interview, but the star has stuck to his social media channels to directly communicate with fans and critics while establishing his own narrative on the controversy.
Top comments on the video commend Smith for his apology.
“You’re an outstanding man and respectable for this video. You’ve always been my role model and this shows it takes a real man to admit they were wrong. I suggest everyone reads your book, your actions make sense then,” a fan wrote in the comments section with 3,400 other users upvoting the comment.
Smith’s video links to his memoir, a New York Times bestseller released last November. The book recounts Smith’s pursuit of inner happiness and mastery over his emotions, despite the intense pressure he’s felt as a celebrity. Smith’s book sales spiked after the Oscars and some commentators say that reading about Smith’s experience has helped them understand why he did what he did.
“I know it was confusing. I know it was shocking, but I promise you I am deeply devoted and committed to putting light and love and joy into the world. If you hang on, I promise we’ll be able to be friends again,” Smith said to his fans.
Watch the video below:
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