Actor Denzel Washington, who is devoutly Christian, addressed fellow actor Will Smith’s ‘slap heard ’round the world’ — his assault of comedian Chris Rock at last week’s Academy Awards, which has since led Smith to resign from the organization.
Both Washington and director Tyler Perry went to Smith to counsel him right after the incident, which happened after Rock cracked a joke about Jada Pinkett-Smith’s condition that causes her to lose her hair, telling Smith that the devil comes at those who are at their “highest moment.” Smith went on to win a “Best Actor” Oscar for his performance in “King Richard,” a film about the father of pro tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams.
Washington expounded on the subject more in an interview with megachurch pastor T.D. Jakes at the latter’s annual International Leadership Conference in North Carolina.
“You stepped in the middle of World War Three,” Jakes noted, referencing the situation onstage at the Oscars to the war everyone feared is coming in eastern Europe. “We were looking at Ukraine and it happened on the Oscars, when Will, who I love, slapped Chris, who I love. You came in as the senior statesman to that situation.”
“These legends got into a fight in front of the world, what happened? It wasn’t really a fight, it was just one person slapping the taste out of the other one’s mouth,” Jakes continued, which prompted laughs from the crowd.
“Well, there’s a saying when the devil ignores you, then you know you’re doing something wrong,” Washington said, which quieted the crowd after he added, “I’m not done now.”
“You know, the devil goes, ‘Oh no leave him alone, he’s my favorite’,” Washington continued. “Conversely, when the devil comes at you, maybe it’s because you’re trying to do something right. And for whatever reason, the devil got ahold of him, okay, of that circumstance that night.”
Washington then described what happened right afterward — he and others went immediately to Smith to console and calm him.
“Fortunately there were people, not just me but others. Tyler Perry came right immediately right over there with me, and — some prayers, you know. I don’t want to say what we talked about,” Washington added.
“There but for the Grace of God go any of us. You know, who are we to condemn, you know? … I don’t know all the ins and outs of the situation, but I know the only solution was prayer, the way I see it,” Washington concluded.
Shortly after the incident, Smith decided to resign from the Academy.
“I have directly responded to the Academy’s disciplinary hearing notice, and I will fully accept any and all consequences for my conduct,” the 53-year-old actor shared in a statement, reported Deadline.
“My actions at the 94th Academy Awards presentation were shocking, painful, and inexcusable,” he added. “The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris [Rock], his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home. 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,” Smith continued. “I am heartbroken. I want to put the focus back on those who deserve attention for their achievements and allow the Academy to get back to the incredible work it does to support creativity and artistry in film. So, I am resigning from membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and will accept any further consequences the Board deems appropriate.”