During the ceremony, Smith took the stage and slapped Rock across the face after the latter made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head. After the slap, Smith returned to his seat and repeatedly yelled at Rock: “Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth!”
The event continued as normal after the incident, with Smith remaining in attendance and later going on to win Best Actor for his performance in King Richard.
Speaking to attendees at the 2023 Oscar Nominees Luncheon, Yang admitted that the Academy did not handle the situation properly.
“I’m sure you all remember we experienced an unprecedented event at the Oscars,” she told the star-studded audience (via Variety). “What happened onstage was fully unacceptable and the response from our organisation was inadequate.
“We learned from this that the Academy must be fully transparent and accountable in our actions, and particularly in times of crisis you must act swiftly, compassionately and decisively for ourselves and for our industry. You should and can expect no less form us going forward.”
Smith resigned from the Academy on April 1, 2022, writing in a statement: “I betrayed the trust of the Academy. I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work. I am heartbroken.”
It took the Academy several more days to announce that Smith’s membership had been revoked, banning him from attending the Oscars for the next 10 years.
“The 94th Oscars were meant to be a celebration of the many individuals in our community who did incredible work this past year; however, those moments were overshadowed by the unacceptable and harmful behaviour we saw Mr. Smith exhibit on stage,” the Academy said in a statement on April 8.
“During our telecast, we did not adequately address the situation in the room. For this, we are sorry. This was an opportunity for us to set an example for our guests, viewers and our Academy family around the world, and we fell short — unprepared for the unprecedented.”
In July 2022, Smith posted an apology video to address his actions. “I’ve reached out to Chris and the message that came back is he’s not ready to talk, and when he is, he will reach out.”
Speaking to journalist Kevin McCarthy in November, Smith said he completely understood if people weren’t ready to watch his new film Emancipation following the Oscars slap.
"I completely understand that if…someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready…My deepest hope is that my actions don't penalize my team."
— Kevin McCarthy (@KevinMcCarthyTV) November 28, 2022
“I completely understand. If someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready,” Smith said. “My deepest concern is my team – Antoine has done what I think is the greatest work of his entire career.”
He added: “The people on this team have done some of the best work of their entire careers, and my deepest hope is that my actions don’t penalise my team.
“At this point, that’s what I’m working for. I’m hoping that the material – the power of the film, the timeliness of the story – I’m hoping that the good that can be done would open people’s hearts at a minimum to see and recognise and support the incredible artists in and around this film.”