Last month, Smith struck Chris Rock on-stage during the Academy Awards ceremony following a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. Following numerous apologies over the incident, Smith resigned from the Academy and described his actions as “shocking, painful, and inexcusable,” before being banned from the Oscars for a decade.
Since the incident, Smith has been condemned by a number of celebrities including A$AP Rocky, Janet Hubert, Jim Carrey, Amy Schumer and Zoë Kravitz, while the likes of Denzel Washington and UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak have supported him.
Speaking at a live event in Chicago, Jazzy Jeff – who formed the duo DJ Jazzy Jeff And The Fresh Prince with Smith in 1986 and won two Grammys for ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’ and ‘Summertime’ before they split in 1994 – defended his former bandmate.
“Don’t get it twisted that it was something he was proud of. It was a lapse in judgement, you know?” he said in a video posted to his Instagram.
“I think the thing that I’ve realised is I don’t know too many people that has had the least amount of lapse of judgement than him.
“I can name 50 times that he should’ve smacked the shit out of somebody and he didn’t. So for him to have a lapse in judgment, he’s human. And I think a lot of the criticism comes from the people who don’t think people like that are human.”
In a new statement announcing Smith’s ban, the Academy reflected on the actor’s behaviour, praised Rock’s “composure”, and called for “a time of healing and restoration for all involved and impacted” (per Variety).
“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,” they said.
“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.”
Despite requests by some industry figures for Smith’s Oscar – which he won on the same night for his performance in King Richard – to be revoked, including one of Chris Rock’s brothers, the Oscars have no legal authority to do so.