Need help now? Call 216.321.7774

Chris Rock’s Joke About Actress Jada Pinkett Smith Creates Crisis For Academy Awards and Will Smith

It was indeed the slap heard ’round the world.  But if you’re looking for Hollywood gossip, look elsewhere.  Instead, let’s look at the situation from the crisis management point of view.

Here’s how I saw it:

  1. If you’re a high-power celeb and you sit in the front row of the Academy Award ceremonies, you are more than likely going to be the recipient of a verbal jab or two.  It’s been that way for decades.  I’ve been to the famous Comedy Cellar in Manhattan many times and I can tell you that even if you’re not famous, you sit at one of the front row bistro tables with peril.  And did I ever tell you about that time in 1977 when I saw Don Rickles at the old Front Row Theater in-person?  It wasn’t pretty, but damn, it was funny.  Thin skin?  Don’t sit in eye-shot of a comedian.
  2. Two women in my life lost their hair due to chemotherapy, so I do have at least a vague idea how tough it’s been for both Jada Pinkett Smith, who suffers from alopecia, and her husband.  It isn’t something you go through alone.  But even if you believe that Chris Rocks’ joke was over the line, Will Smith’s physical reaction was reprehensible.  Period.
  3. I’ve read numerous articles reporting that sometime between the altercation and the announcement of Will Smith’s Oscar win, during a commercial break, Smith’s publicist had a quick, private conversation with him.  I would bet the farm that the publicist told him quickly and in no uncertain terms that if he wins the Oscar, he better get up on that stage and apologize profusely for what he did, and that if he didn’t, he was likely to be dealt with harshly by the Motion Picture Academy – and that his future as a Hollywood star was in existential jeopardy.  Do I really know what that publicist said?  I can only tell you that’s exactly what I would have told Smith, had he been my client at that moment.
  4. In the 5-10 minutes that elapsed between that conversation and the announcement of Smith’s Oscar, Smith sat there and realized how badly he screwed up.  But instead of a real apology, an apology to the person he physically assaulted, an apology that should have been clear and unequivocal, he rambled on about himself, speaking words that directly contradicted the hostility witnessed by millions and his own, carefully crafted “nice guy” persona.  And then, he turned on the tear faucet.
  5. Mr. Smith did issue a formal apology the next day, but that apology was gossamer thin.  And instead of making that apology to Chris Rock in-person (or at the very least, on the phone, FaceTime or Zoom), it was issued on one of the social media platforms, reeking of insincerity.
  6. And what of Chris Rock?  He quickly (and smartly) declined to prosecute.  And as this is being written, seven days after the altercation, he’s said nothing.  I’m betting that he never will.

–  Bruce Hennes

A few of our colleagues and pundits analyzed the situation, parsing the “apologies.”  Let’s see what Steve Rose, The Guardian; Tom Jones, The Poynter Report; and Edward Segal, Forbes had to say on this subject.

Will Smith: Can His Career Survive?  Or is the Fresh Prince Finished?

By Steve Rose, writing for The Guardian

For three bravado-filled decades, he was box office dynamite, pulling in $9 billion. How will the star now win back the public’s esteem – and keep Hollywood onside?

t is not often an actor experiences both the high point and the low point of their careers on the same night, but you can always trust Will Smith to push the boundaries of movie stardom. His win as best actor for King Richard ought to have been the cherry on top of one of the most successful film careers in history – except Smith himself had already sabotaged the moment, the night, and possibly his future when he got up on stage 40 minutes earlier and slapped Chris Rock. Smith could spend the rest of his life looking back on Sunday night as the best of times and the worst, but which one will prevail? Is Smith big enough to survive such a jarring incident – or is the Fresh Prince past his sell-by date?

The unique nature of both the incident and the actor have us grasping for precedent. In 2017, Casey Affleck went through the similarly awkward motions of accepting best actor Oscar, for Manchester By the Sea, even as allegations of earlier sexual harassment resurfaced, turning what should have been a huge career bounce into a damaging trial by public opinion. Affleck denied the accusations but his reputation has never really recovered. He’s a rising character actor, though. Will Smith is in a different league, arguably one of his own.

For the rest, click here.

Will Smith’s Slap Heard ‘Round the World Was an Insult to the Oscars

By Tom Jones writing in The Poynter Report

Did you ever think we would have a more bizarre Academy Awards moment than 2017 when the wrong name was announced for Best Picture? But on Sunday night, the “Moonlight/La La Land” blunder became the second-strangest moment in Oscar history as soon as one of the most famous actors of his generation slapped one of the most famous comedians of all time.

To see Will Smith smack Chris Rock in the middle of an Oscar ceremony was so bizarre, so surreal, so off-the-charts that you had to do a mental double-take and ask, “Wait, was that real?” Seriously, right after it happened, many were convinced that it had to have been staged. Some still think so.

But while both Smith and Rock are highly-skilled performers, it seemed pretty obvious that this was not a bit. That became even more clear when Smith twice told Rock to keep his wife’s name “out of your (expletive) mouth.” Smith wasn’t playing. He was clearly agitated by a joke Rock made about Smith’s wife, actor Jada Pinkett Smith.

“Jada, I love you,” Rock said. “G.I. Jane 2; can’t wait to see it.”

Rock was referring to the movie “G.I. Jane,” for which actress Demi Moore shaved her head. Jada Pinkett Smith has closely-cropped hair because she has alopecia, a condition that leads to hair loss. Now, what isn’t known is whether or not Rock was aware of her condition. And Rock does have a history of taking verbal jabs at Pinkett Smith.

But even if Rock was aware of her condition, and Smith was standing up for his wife, walking up on stage and slapping an Oscar presenter managed to ruin the night.

The Weekly Sensemaker newsletter from The Tortoise summed it up well: “Last night’s Academy Awards were the first at which a queer woman of color won an Oscar (Ariana DeBose for West Side Story); the first at which a deaf male actor won an Oscar (Troy Kotsur for Coda), and only the third in which a woman won for Best Director (Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog). But Will Smith smacked them all off the front page by striding onstage and hitting Chris Rock.”

Los Angeles Times culture columnist and critic Mary McNamara wrote, “Women made Oscar history Sunday night, but it was a man who managed to hijack the headlines.”

Smith easily could’ve stood up for his wife and called out Rock at any other time in any other place — and that (minus the slap) would’ve been understandable. But to do it at that particular time in that particular place overshadowed the best professional night in the entire lives of the other Oscar winners and nominees. Everything that happened Sunday night, especially after the slap, was muted.

McNamara wrote, “As the show marched on, it was hard to focus on the clips and speeches as uncensored video of the moment circulated, social media lit up with questions about whether the slap was scripted (it wasn’t), and whether Smith would be escorted from the premise (he wasn’t). Many of the big awards were given out in that last half hour, and despite heroic professionalism on the part of the subsequent presenters, the audience and the winners, Smith’s actions hung over every win like a pall.”

Sunday night won’t be remembered as the night actress Jessica Chastain won her much-anticipated and well-deserved first Oscar. Or the night DeBose and Kotsur and Campion won their Oscars. Or that Questlove, who won in the Best Documentary category that Rock was there to present, gave a touching speech. It won’t be remembered as the night Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas won an Oscar for Best Original Song. It won’t be remembered for the night that Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes did a commendable job as co-hosts.

For the rest, click here.

A Crisis for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science?

By Edward Segal writing for Forbes

The incident, which overshadowed news coverage about the award winners, immediately created a crisis for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The Academy said in a tweet after the incident last night that “The Academy does not condone violence of any form.”

Today, the Academy issued this statement: “The academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show. We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our bylaws, standards of conduct and California law.”

CNN reported that Smith, “offered his apologies to the Academy and others” when he accepted the award for his role as Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams, in the film King Richard.

According to CBS News, “The Los Angeles Police Department says Chris Rock has declined to press charges against Smith….”

Barry Schwartz is the president of Schwartz Public Relations Associates. He said, “My view is that Chris Rock was the bully last night and Will Smith’s action was an emotional reaction to that bullying. Yes, it was bad judgment to use physical force, and a verbal ‘slap in the face”’ would have been preferred.

“But I simply can’t condone someone (Rock) using the bully pulpit (literally and figuratively) to assault a woman suffering from an autoimmune disorder, without any response,” he observed.

For the rest, click here.

Contact Us

Your name Organization name Describe your situation Your phone number Your email address
Leave this as it is