While presenting the award for best documentary, Rock joked, â€œJada, I love you. â€˜G.I. Jane 2,â€™ canâ€™t wait to see it,â€ in a reference to actress Jada Pinkett Smithâ€™s shaved head. Will Smith then walked onto the stage and struck Rock in the face.
When he returned to his seat, Smith shouted at the comedian: â€œKeep my wifeâ€™s name out your fucking mouth.â€
Pinkett Smith, who has alopecia, shaved her head last year. She has shared updates about her experience with the condition that causes hair loss.
The attack at the Oscars sent shockwaves across social media, with many speculating that it must have been staged or scripted. A number of reporters and attendees said they believed it to be real, and the Los Angeles Police Department said later it was aware of the incident but the â€œindividual involved has declined to file a police report.â€
Some viewers initially praised Smith for defending his wife in the face of such insults, including Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), who has alopecia. However, she quickly deleted the message. â€œThe Viewâ€ host Ana Navarro wrote: â€œFor the almost 7 million people and their loved ones who suffer from alopecia, it is not a joke.â€
Comedians and multiple late-night show hosts also chimed in.
â€œLet me tell you something, itâ€™s a very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a Comedian,â€ wrote Emmy-winner Kathy Griffin. â€œNow we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters.â€
â€œThe only funny thing about it is that Chris probably didnâ€™t even write that hack joke, and my heart goes out to the poor comedy writer who did!â€ tweeted Jena Friedman, a comedy writer who has worked for â€œThe Daily Showâ€ and â€œThe Late Show.â€
When Smith later won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in â€œKing Richard,â€ he tearfully apologized to the Academy and to his fellow nominees for the incident and joked about how â€œart imitates lifeâ€ and â€œlove will make you do crazy things.â€ He did not apologize to Rock during his speech.