Will Smith has opened up about the ongoing controversy surrounding his assault of Chris Rock at this year’s Academy Awards, offering up his most unvarnished thoughts about an altercation that has marred his public image. In an emotional YouTube post, Smith addressed why he didn’t apologize to Rock when he accepted a best actor prize for his work in “King Richard” shortly after he charged the stage and slapped the comic for making a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s short haircut.
“It’s all fuzzy,” Smith says. “I’ve reached out to Chris and the message that came back is he’s not ready to talk, and when he is, he will reach out.”
Smith once again reiterated that he was sorry for his actions, calling his behavior “unacceptable.” The actor has said he responded violently because Rock’s joke referenced the hair loss that Pinkett Smith suffers because of her alopecia. It’s a struggle that Pinkett Smith has publicly addressed in the past.
“There is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment,” Smith, who sighs deeply at points and seems to be fighting back tears, says in the video. “There’s no part of me that thinks that’s the optimal way to handle a feeling of disrespect or insults.”
Smith also addressed questions about whether or not Pinkett Smith, who was seen on camera rolling her eyes at Rock’s joke comparing her buzzcut to the one Demi Moore sports in “G.I. Jane,” had urged him to charge the stage. The actor said his wife said nothing to spur him to assault Rock.
“It’s like, you know, I made a choice on my own, from my own experiences, from my history with Chris,” Smith says. “Jada had nothing to do with it. I’m sorry, babe. I want to say sorry to my kids and my family for the heat that I brought on all of us.”
There had been speculation that Smith would open up about the fallout surrounding the Rock slap in a sit-down interview with a high-profile journalist like Oprah Winfrey, but instead the actor has opted to use social media to directly address his fans. In the wake of the slap, Smith resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group behind the Oscars and offered up statements of contrition, but has otherwise maintained a low profile.
Rock recently broke his silence during a standup show in New Jersey, on July 24. “Anyone who says words hurt has never been punched in the face,” Rock joked, according to US Weekly. He went on to say he wasn’t a “victim,” joking, “Yeah, that sh-t hurt, motherf–ker. But I shook that sh-t off and went to work the next day … I don’t go to the hospital for a papercut.”
On Oscar night, Smith assaulted Rock moments before the award for best documentary was about to be presented to “Summer of Soul” director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. The shocked response to the incident overshadowed Thompson’s time at the podium.
“To all my fellow nominees, you know, this is a community, it’s like I won because you voted for me,” Smith says in the video. “And it really breaks my heart to have stolen and tarnished your moment. I can still see Questlove’s eyes. You know, it happened on Questlove’s award. And, you know, it’s like, ‘I’m sorry’ really isn’t sufficient.”
Smith ultimately closed the video with a pledge to learn from his mistakes.
“I know it was confusing, I know it was shocking,” he says. “But I promise you, I am deeply devoted and committed to putting light and love and joy into the world. And, you know, if you hang on, I promise we’ll be able to be friends again.”