Why Does the Will Smith Slap Warrant a Weeks-Long Investigation?

Protocol is protocol, but maybe it's time to just move on

Will Smith accepts the Actor in a Leading Role award for ‘King Richard’ onstage during the 94th Annual Academy Awards.
Will Smith accepts the Actor in a Leading Role award for ‘King Richard’ onstage during the 94th Annual Academy Awards.
Getty Images

Another day, another development in the Will Smith slap saga: after firing off a brief tweet condemning the actor’s actions on Sunday night, the Academy has now released a lengthier statement about the incident in the form of a letter to its membership. In it, they reiterate that Smith’s assault of Chris Rock was “unacceptable and harmful” and reveal that an official investigation is underway — a process that could apparently take “a few weeks.”

“Sunday’s telecast of the 94th Oscars was meant to be a celebration of the many individuals in our community who did incredible work this past year,” the letter, signed by Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson, reads. “We are upset and outraged that those moments were overshadowed by the unacceptable and harmful behavior on stage by a nominee. To be clear, we condemn Mr. Smith’s actions that transpired Sunday night.”

“As outlined in our bylaws, the Academy’s Board of Governors will now make a determination on appropriate action for Mr. Smith,” it 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.”

The law is the law, and if there’s a set process in place to investigate these sorts of things, the Academy has no choice but to follow it. That said, a few weeks?! At this point, nearly everyone has seen the video of the slap ad nauseam; what could a weeks-long investigation possibly reveal that we can’t already see plain as day in the footage? Smith clearly slapped Rock, and Rock later declined to press charges. (Smith has since issued an apology to the comedian on social media.) This isn’t exactly a mystery we’re dealing with here, and while the Academy no doubt wants to go through all the proper channels before imposing any sort of punishment onto Smith, maybe it’s just time to move on.

After all, the damage is already done. They can put out as many sternly worded statements as they like, but that will never change the fact that the Academy allowed Smith to remain at the ceremony after he slapped Rock and then later permitted him to accept his Best Actor award and bask in the standing ovation he received from those in attendance. That’s a pretty clear endorsement of his behavior that they can never take back, and dragging this out for weeks only seems like an attempt to save face on their part.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.