Will Smith’s assault of comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars over a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, continued to be felt around the world Wednesday as the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences told members its leaders are “upset and outraged.”
In a letter cited by CNN ahead of a meeting to decide what “appropriate action” will be taken against the star for slapping Rock, which has led to intense and diverse reactions, Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said that decision could take “take a few weeks.”
While the world waits to see what happens, however, some Christian leaders have weighed in on the behavior of the actor, who just a few months ago firmly acknowledged he was a man of faith who loves the Lord.
“You can’t get how I get if you don’t love the Lord,” Smith said in an interview with producer, author and motivational speaker Devon Franklin last November. “You don’t get to sit how I sit and move how I move if you don’t love the Lord. You’d be seeing a whole lot of other repercussions.”
While Smith’s affirmations may be true, his reaction to Rock’s joke about his wife on Sunday was seen as a “letdown” by some Christian leaders, like civil rights activist Rev. Jeff Moore.
“It was such a letdown and such a letdown for us as black men,” Moore told KPIX 5, a San Francisco-based news outlet. “I would have hoped that if anything he would have walked up and maybe said, ‘Hey man, just apologize to my wife.’ But to go to violence was not the answer.”
The incident happened about an hour before Smith was announced as the winner of the best actor award for his role in “King Richard,” a film highlighting the story of the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams.
Rock made a joke about Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, comparing her to the lead character played by actor Demi Moore in the 1997 war film “G.I. Jane.”
“Jada, I love you. ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it,” Rock said during his presentation of the award for best documentary feature.
Pinkett Smith had previously shared with her fans that she suffers from hair loss caused by alopecia, but many people were unaware of her condition. She was not happy about the joke, and her displeasure appeared to trigger her husband — who initially laughed at the joke — to walk on stage and slap Rock across his face.
He then walked back to his seat and angrily warned Rock twice, “Keep my wife’s name out your f*****g mouth.”
Rev. Kevin Peterson, founder and executive director of The New Democracy Coalition, told WCVB 5 in Boston that he was “disappointed.”
“Publicly encouraging the black community not to engage the type of violence that they witnessed, that we would be better,” he said. “Deeply disappointed that two black men were engaged in this exchange before a global audience.”
Smith has since apologized to Rock on Instagram, noting in part that “violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive.” He also accepted that his behavior was “unacceptable and inexcusable,” even though he insisted he was trying to stand up for his wife.
While he respects Smith’s apology, Peterson said he hoped that Smith’s attack on Rock “will become a teachable moment where we can highlight the reality of black-on-black crime.”
Mika Edmondson, lead pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church’s Koinonia, in Nashville, Tennessee, was not happy with what he saw.
“We all just watched a physical assault play out right before our very eyes. And the person who did it was comforted as if he were the victim and talked about it as though it were an act of love. We have to denormalize violence as a response to feeling disrespected,” he wrote on Twitter.
He also suggested that Smith could have leaned on the faith in God he claims.
“Most importantly, ask Jesus what he wanted. We must prioritize standing up for black women in ways that center and empower black women,” he posited.