Oh my God, he admit it. Four months after The Slap That Launched a Thousand Takes, Will Smith has issued a public apology to Chris Rock for physically hitting him onstage at the 94th Academy Awards in March. The Best Actor winner posted a video titled, “It’s been a minute …” across his socials, which begins with the text: “It’s been a minute … Over the last few months, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and personal work … You asked a lot of fair questions that I wanted to take some time to answer.” The first thing to note is that Smith (well, really, Smith’s PR team) texts like your boomer parents, like there’s a sale on ellipses at the punctuation store. The video opens with Smith giving a big, troubled sigh on mic before answering the question, “Why didn’t you apologize to Chris in your acceptance speech?” His answer, in full:
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. So I will say to you, Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk. I want to apologize to Chris’s mother. I saw an interview that Chris’s mother did, and you know, that was one of the things about that moment I just didn’t realize, and I wasn’t thinking, but how many people got hurt in that moment. So I want to apologize to Chris’s mother.
I want to apologize to Chris’s family. Specifically, Tony Rock. We had a great relationship. You know, Tony Rock was my man. And this is probably irreparable. I spent the last three months replaying and understanding the nuances and the complexities of what happened in that moment. And 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. There’s no part of me that thinks that’s the optimal way to handle a feeling of disrespect or insults.
The next question asks if Jada Pinkett Smith told Smith to do something in the moment, directly following Rock’s joke about her alopecia. Smith responds:
No. I made a choice on my own, from my own experiences, from my history with Chris. Jada had nothing to do with it. I’m sorry, babe. I wanna say sorry to my kids and my family for the heat that I brought on all of us. To all my fellow nominees, this is a community. I won because you voted for me. And it really breaks my heart to have stolen and tarnished your moment. I can still see Questlove’s eyes. It happened on Questlove’s award. And it’s like, “I’m sorry” really isn’t sufficient.
In the remainder of the video, Smith addresses fans who may be disappointed in his behavior.
There’s two things. One, disappointing people is my central trauma. I hate when I let people down. So it hurts me psychologically and emotionally to know I didn’t live up to people’s image and impression of me. And the work I’m trying to do is, 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 shit. So I would say to those people, 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. And you know, if you hang on, I promise we’ll be able to be friends again.
This apology comes a week after Rock referenced the slap in his Madison Square Garden comedy set on July 23, joking, “Anyone who says words hurt has never been punched in the face.” During a show in New Jersey the following night, he repeated the line and added, “I’m not a victim, motherfucker. Yeah, that shit hurt, motherfucker, but I shook that shit off and went to work the next day … I don’t go to the hospital for a paper cut.”