The Academy released a strongly worded statement on Wednesday after its Board of Governors met to discuss how to deal with Smith in the wake of the much-publicized incident. “Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated,” the statement reads in part, according to our sister site Variety. “While we would like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently.”
Smith’s slap was “a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness,” the statement adds, before apologizing to Rock and the other nominees, guests and viewers “for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event.”
The Board of Governors meeting is the beginning of a formal disciplinary review which could end in “suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions” for Smith, who took home the Oscar for Best Actor for his role as Venus and Serena Williams’ father Richard in the film King Richard. The next board meeting, when the Academy’s decision on Smith could be revealed, is set for April 18.
The heated moment between Rock and Smith occurred while Rock was presenting the award for Best Documentary Feature during Sunday’s Oscars broadcast on ABC. Rock quipped, “Jada, I love ya. GI Jane 2 — can’t wait to see it,” directing his comments at Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith, who is bald and who has previously spoken publicly about her hair loss due to alopecia.
Though Smith appeared to laugh at the joke at first, Pinkett Smith rolled her eyes and appeared displeased. Soon after, Smith walked up to the stage and took a swing at Rock. “Wow, Will Smith just smacked the s–t out of me,” Rock said. 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 protested that the dig had just been a joke.
Smith went on to clinch 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.”
Smith has since apologized to Rock in a statement on Instagram, saying: “My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable… I was out of line, and I was wrong.” Jada Pinkett Smith offered her own cryptic statement on Tuesday, saying simply: “This is a season for healing and I’m here for it.”