The morning after the Oscars is usually dominated by light-hearted celebrations of the night’s winners and admiring fashion chatter on the red carpet, but on Monday it was devoted to a more sombre discussion of the disturbing spectacle that dominated the night: Will Smith punches Chris Rock onstage after disagreeing with one of his jokes.
On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” George Stephanopoulos described it as “something we’ve never seen before, something that’s very hard to handle: Will Smith, walking on that stage after Chris Rock told a joke about his wife — Chris just assault Stone.”
The Academy has issued a statement saying they do not condone violence, but Stephanopoulos noted that they have “not taken any other action yet”.
“It changed all night,” anchor Robin Roberts said.
The show cut to a Los Angeles correspondent, TJ Holmes, who said, “It was ugly, it was embarrassing, it was confusing.” And despite all the awards ceremonies made on Sunday, he lamented, “Here we are, we’re running the show, and the morning’s story is about a man who attacks another on the Oscar stage.”
Planning not to repeat last year’s record-low ratings, those in power at the Oscars made a series of changes they hoped would attract more viewers: installing a trio of comics as presenters, pre-tapping some prizes to try and speed up the pace and introduce a fan favorite prize for viewers to vote for. But this year’s broadcast became a must-see television for a reason they didn’t expect.
The incident happened after Rock joked about the 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 maybe the slap was part of the show. After all, the past two hours have been filled with gimmick after gimmick — including a bearded Wanda Sykes in shorts and knee-length socks, dressed as Smith’s character from “King Richard,” a performance for which he quickly won an Oscar.
But when ABC turned off the sound and forced the audience to lip-read Smith as he yelled at Rock to keep his wife’s name out of his mouth, the reality of the situation settled.
Comedians, who tell awkward and sometimes offensive jokes to earn a living, expressed concern about the precedent Smith had set.
“Let me tell you something, it’s a very bad habit to walk on stage and physically assault a comedian,” Kathy Griffin tweeted† “Now we all have to worry about who the next Will Smith wants to be in comedy clubs and theaters.”
The moment seemed to leave the Academy organizers stunned and unsure of how to proceed; after dealing the blow, Smith returned to his seat, stayed in the theater, then collected his Best Actor trophy for cheering. In his speech, Smith apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees, but not Rock, and defiantly tried to draw parallels to the character he played in “King Richard,” the fiercely protective father of Venus and Serena Williams. He received a standing ovation.
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” he said.
At the afterparty, Academy president David Rubin was reluctant to take a stance on what had happened and said with a wave of his hand, “Still unpacking.”
Academy representatives did not immediately respond Monday morning when asked whether Smith would face repercussions for hitting a presenter. At least one Academy member, Marshall Herskovitz, former president of the Producers Guild of America, called for Smith to take disciplinary action.
The Los Angeles Police Department said it was aware of what it described as an incident where “one person hit another” during the Oscars. Police said the person involved had “refused to report it to the police”.
“If the involved party wants a police report at a later date,” the police said, they would go ahead and “fill out an investigative report.”
Rock has teased the couple from the Oscar stage before. In 2016, when the Smiths boycotted the awards ceremony because the nominees in the four acting categories were all white, Rock, the show’s host, joked about it. “Jada says she’s not coming, protesting,” Rock said that year. “I’m like, isn’t she on a TV show? Jada is going to boycott the Oscars – Boycotting Jada the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited.”
Smith didn’t let that stop him from celebrating his win on Sunday night, dancing at a crowded after-party while holding his trophy, but dodging questions about the incident.
Jaden Smith, one of Will and Jada’s children, tweeted just, “And that’s how we do it.”
But reactions inside and outside Hollywood varied widely. In post-show interviews, after parties and on social media, Smith’s colleagues expressed sadness, confusion, disbelief, anger and, in some cases, empathy in various ways. Many deflected or ignored questions about the episode completely.
Actor Mark Hamill called it the ugliest Oscar moment. “Stand-up comics are very adept at dealing with scammers,” he says wrote on Twitter. “Violent physical assault… not so much. #UgliestOscarMoment_Ever†
Others seemed to defend Smith. “Many here are talking about Will Smith and Chris Rock, especially from people whose partners are not black women (mainly white people),” author Frederick Joseph tweeted† “I don’t care if it’s a joke or not, the amount black women have to go through – people are tired of it. We have no idea what Jada went through.”
Comedian Tiffany Haddish, who starred in the movie “Girls Trip” with Pinkett Smith, said in an interview with People magazine at the afterparty that she appreciated Smith protecting his wife.
“And maybe the world might not like the way it went,” Haddish said, “but for me it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen because it made me believe there are still men out there who love and care about them.” their wives, their wives.”
A top studio manager, who declined to speak on the record, expressed disappointment with Smith and the fact that the audience at the theater gave him a standing ovation.
But the next morning, much of the response was still a response of disbelief.
“We’re not sure where the fallout will end,” Ryan Seacrest said Monday on his morning show “Live With Kelly and Ryan.” “It was one of those moments that we couldn’t believe when we saw it.”