“Disappointing people is my central trauma,” said Smith, facing the camera. “I hate when I let people down. It hurts.”
In the nearly six-minute-long YouTube video, Smith addressed frequent questions he received after the incident. Did his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, tell him to do it? No. Why didn’t he apologize to Rock during his acceptance speech just moments later? It was “a blur.”
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During the Oscars, Rock took the stage to present the winner of the documentary feature category, but started with a joke. Targeting Jada Pinkett Smith’s closely cropped head, which may have been a result of her struggles with alopecia, he said, “Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, can’t wait to see it.” Smith, then strode up to the stage, slapped Rock across the face before returning to his seat where he repeatedly yelled: “Keep my wife’s name out of your f—ing mouth.”
Smith offered an apology on social media shortly after the event, but Rock has largely stayed silent, though he briefly touched on the matter during a stand-up set in March: “I had like a whole show I wrote before the weekend,” he said according to a Washington Post reporter in the audience. “And I’m still kind of processing what happened. At some point, I’ll talk about that.” (A representative for Rock could not immediately reach for comment.)
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The video was a chain of apologies — to Rock, to Pinkett Smith, to his family, to the Academy, to Questlove, to his fans, even to Rock’s mother who said during an interview with an NBC affiliate that, “when [Smith] slapped Chris, he slapped all of us. He really slapped me.”
There were several moments in which Smith appeared to be holding back tears, including when he recalled the look in the eyes of Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who was awarded the best documentary trophy for “Summer of Soul (… Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” shortly after the incident. It was Thompson’s first Academy Award.
Smith paused just slightly to consider his words: “I’m sorry isn’t really sufficient.”
To his fans who were let down by his actions, he said: “I know it was confusing. I know it was shocking. But I promise you, I am deeply devoted and committed to putting light and love and joy into the world. And, you know, if you hang on, I promise we’ll be able to be friends again.”
Smith also said he is committed to doing work on himself — he’s trying to be “remorseful without being ashamed. Right? I’m human. And I made a mistake and I’m trying not to think of myself as a piece of s—.”
But according to Smith, Rock still isn’t ready for a face-to-face apology.
“I’ve reached out to Chris and the message that came back is that he’s not ready to talk, and when he is he will reach out,” Smith said. “So I will say to you, Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable, and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.”