In an interview that’s set to air on Wednesday’s Ellen (watch video above), Sykes said that Smith should have been removed from the building immediately after he slapped Rock.
“For them to let him stay in that room and enjoy the rest of the show and accept his award…. I was like, ‘How gross is this?’” she said. “This is just the wrong message. You assault somebody, you get escorted out of the building, and that’s it. But for them to let him continue, I thought it was gross. I wanted to be able run out after he won and say, ‘Unfortunately, Will couldn’t be here tonight…’
“I just felt so awful for my friend Chris,” Sykes added. “It was sickening. I physically felt ill and I’m still a little traumatized by it.”
While presenting Best Documentary Feature during ABC’s broadcast of the 94th Academy Awards on Sunday, Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s baldness; she has spoken publicly about how she lives with a hair-loss condition called alopecia. “Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2 — can’t wait to see it,” Rock said, referencing the 1997 film in which Demi Moore’s character shaves her head as she competes with her fellow Naval officers in a grueling series of physical tests.
Pinkett Smith’s husband appeared to laugh at the joke at first, but Pinkett Smith rolled her eyes and looked irked. Soon after, Smith walked up to the stage and took a swing at Rock, who said, “Wow, Will Smith just smacked the s–t out of me.” Then Smith, who had returned to his seat, yelled from the audience, “Keep my wife’s name out your f–king mouth” and repeated it after Rock responded that the jab had just been a joke.
Smith went on to take home the Best Actor award, addressing the incident (albeit indirectly) in his acceptance speech. “Denzel [Washington] said to me, ‘At your highest moment, be careful — that’s when the devil comes for you,” he said through tears, before adding, “I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to my fellow nominees.”
On Monday, Smith apologized to Rockvia an Instagram post that said, in part, “My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally. I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”
“I know [Will] apologized to Chris [the day after], but… We were the hosts, this is ‘our house,’ we’re re gonna take care of y’all tonight and no one has apologized to us,” Sykes added to DeGeneres. “And we worked really had to put that show together.”
Sykes’ comments come just hours after fellow co-host Amy Schumer weighed in on the kerfuffle. “Still triggered and traumatized,” she wrote on Instagram early Wednesday. “I love my friend Chris Rock and believe he handled it like a pro. Stayed up there and gave an Oscar to his friend Questlove and the whole thing was so disturbing. So much pain in Will Smith… Anyway I’m still in shock and stunned and sad. Im proud of myself and my cohosts. But yeah. Waiting for this sickening feeling to go away from what we all witnessed.”