When host Chris Rock made a joke about his wife’s shaved head at this year’s Academy Awards, actor Will Smith marched on stage and slapped him hard – a slap that instantly echoed around the planet. Four months later, Will Smith finally expressed his regret in a video posted on social media: “Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.” Hours after Smith posted his emotional video, Rock responded indirectly during his stand-up act in Atlanta (Georgia, USA).
Appearing at the Fox Theater as part of his Chris Rock Ego Death World Tour, the comedian said, “Everybody is trying to be a [expletive] victim. If everybody claims to be a victim, then nobody will hear the real victims.” He then compared Will Smith to Suge Knight, “Even when Suge Smith slapped me, I went to work the next day, I have kids.” Marion Suge Knight, head of the Death Row Records label and producer for major hip hop stars like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg went to prison in the 1990s for rape and again in the 2000s for violating his parole. In other words, a guy with a lousy reputation.
Rock has mentioned the assault a few times in his act. In a recent performance at London’s Albert Hall, he said he’d only to make a public statement about it “on Netflix and when I see a big check with his name on it… If anyone wonders, I’ve got my hearing back.” In another performance with fellow comedian Dave Chapelle, the two bantered about their respective assaults. “At least you got hit by someone of repute,” Chapelle joked. Rock replied, “I got smacked by the softest [expletive] that ever rapped.”
“There is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment,” said Smith in his video. “There’s no part of me that thinks that’s the optimal way to handle a feeling of disrespect or insults.” The actor also claimed to have thought long and hard about his actions, and apologized to Rock’s mother and younger brother. He said he even tried to reach out to Rock but heard that he wasn’t ready to talk. “I promise we’ll be able to be friends again,” said the star of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air at the end of a long-delayed apology that doesn’t seem to have made things any better.