Multiple reports contradict the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' statement that Will Smith was asked to leave the Oscars after slapping Chris Rock Sunday night. During the broadcast, the King Richard actor struck the comedian for joking about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith but remained in the Dolby Theatre until the show ended. After the Academy Board of Governors met Wednesday, they said Smith was asked to leave but "refused" to do so.
After Wednesday's meeting, the Academy said it "initiated disciplinary proceedings" against Smith for "violations" of the group's standards of conduct by slapping Rock. They also said Smith would have a 15-day notice before a vote and a chance to submit a written response. There will be another meeting on April 18 to decide possible action, including suspending Smith's Academy membership.
At the end of the statement, the Academy claimed, "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." However, reports from TMZ and Variety dispute this. Sources at the Oscars told TMZ a producer told Smith he could stay at the theater after the slap.
There was a discussion between Academy officials and Smith's representatives backstage. Some Academy officials wanted him to be escorted out of the theater, while others did not. The discussions continued during commercial breaks, but no consensus was reached before the end of the show, sources told TMZ. Smith was aware of these talks. Oscars producer Will Packer later told Smith about 35 minutes after the slap, he could stay. Five minutes later, Smith was back on stage accepting the Best Actor Oscar.
Variety's reporting corroborated much of TMZ's report. Sources told Variety there was never an explicit or formal request to Smith about leaving. One source said Smith was asked to leave through his representative after Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson wanted him to leave. One witness said Packer did ask Smith to stay, but a source close to Packer denied that.
Smith slapped Rock across the face after the comedian joked about Pinkett Smith starring in G.I. Jane 2 because of her shaved head. Pinkett Smith has been open about her struggle with alopecia, which causes hair loss. During his Best Actor acceptance speech, Smith apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees but never mentioned Rock. On Monday, Smith posted another apology on Instagram, this time mentioning Rock. "I was out of line and I was wrong," Smith wrote. "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."
The Academy also apologized to Rock in Wednesday's statement. "Mr. Rock, we apologize to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment," the organization said. "We also apologize to our nominees, guests, and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event."