Academy leaders 'outraged' over Will Smith Oscars slap, governors exploring 'appropriate action'

Academy leaders 'outraged' over Will Smith Oscars slap, governors exploring 'appropriate action'
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Academy leaders have strongly condemned Will Smith's behavior at the 2022 Oscars, according to an internal memo that EW obtained Wednesday.

According to the letter — sent Tuesday evening by Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson — the group's leadership was "upset and outraged" over the "unacceptable and harmful" moment when Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on stage during Sunday's live telecast after the comedian made a joke about the actor's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and her shaved head while presenting the award for Best Documentary Feature.

"As outlined in our bylaws, the Academy's Board of Governors will now make a determination on appropriate action for Mr. Smith," the letter continues. "As governed by California law regarding members of nonprofit organizations like the Academy, and set forth in our Standards of Conduct, this must follow an official process that will take a few weeks."

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith at the Oscars after the latter slapped Chris Rock

Rubin and Hudson promise that the process will be "expedient and respectful of all involved" while also maintaining the organization's standards.

Speaking to EW under condition of anonymity, one Academy member called the letter "profoundly upsetting" because of the group's "perceived inaction" on the matter.

"That letter Tuesday night is profoundly upsetting as the academy continues its perceived inaction," they said. "I received quite a few texts and calls after that letter was sent late last night and this morning in a few branches, disheartened and furious as what is taking place or maybe I should say what is not taking place. If a costume designer, a fellow actor, a sound editor committed that assault — they would have been arrested immediately."

Following the incident, the Academy launched an investigation that, it said, could lead to disciplinary action, including the potential revocation of the Oscar that Smith won Sunday night for his leading performance in the 2021 drama King Richard.

Smith and Pinkett Smith — who has alopecia, and was visibly upset by Rock's improvised joke about her potentially starring in G.I. Jane 2 — have addressed the controversy in different ways since the 94th Academy Awards. The former apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees in his acceptance speech before posting a formal apology to Rock in an Instagram post Monday, while the latter referenced a "season of healing" in a subsequent message on social media.

"Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive," Smith, 53, shared in his statement. "My behavior at last night's Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Pinkett Smith's medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally."

Speaking to EW in the aftermath, an industry source close to the situation told EW that Rock's G.I. Jane 2 joke "was not in the script" the comedian was supposed to stick to, and that the Academy "seriously discussed" removing Smith from the ceremony after the altercation, but "varying opinions" from all involved — including ABC, the Academy, and representatives for both performers — were difficult to survey and respond to during a live show.

"You're also trying to make sure Chris Rock is okay. So basically, to make a very huge decision like that, which either way would've had consequences within the show, in a 10-minute span and get everybody together and have that discussion logistically was a nightmare and borderline impossible," the industry insider told EW.

Pinkett Smith Girls Trip costar Tiffany Haddish has since voiced her support for Smith's actions, while others — including Jim Carrey, John Leguizamo, Zoë Kravitz, and ceremony cohosts Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes — have all disavowed the moment.

"Violence is never the answer," Sykes said in a statement to PEOPLE, while Schumer posted on Instagram that she is "still triggered and traumatized" by the ordeal.

Representatives for Smith and Rock have still not responded to EW's requests for comment.

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