Now We Have Will Smith’s “Real” Apology

First he slapped Chris Rock in full view of America and the world, tainting a once-iconic tradition that was already shaky. Then he returned to his seat in the theater, as if nothing had happened, and shouted an obscenity at his victim. After being allowed to remain at the scene of the crime (and massive exposure of his broken ethics alarms) though he had been asked to leave and refused, Will Smith triumphantly accepted the Oscar for Best Actor, using his speech to rationalize his conduct, never coming close to a genuine apology.

Then he partied the night away like any other self-obsessed Hollywood celebrity.

Last night, after issuing a pro forma Instagram “apology” that was wretched by any standard (It was a #6 at best and a #10 at worst on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale), Smith took a third metaphorical swing at the contrition ball he had missed twice, and at least made contact.

He announced that he was resigning from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscars, in the course of this statement:

“I have directly responded to the Academy’s disciplinary hearing notice, and I will fully accept any and all consequences for my conduct. My actions at the 94th Academy Awards presentation were shocking, painful, and inexcusable. The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, 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. 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. Change takes time and I am committed to doing the work to ensure that I never again allow violence to overtake reason.”

Ethics Observations:

1. Objectively and out of context, that is an excellent apology, a #1 on the Scale.

2. Of course, Smith didn’t write it; he couldn’t if he tried. That’s OK; our President doesn’t write his speeches either. Whoever wrote it did his or her job, and is good at it, fulfilling the duty to Smith and demonstrating professional competence. Maybe a lawyer wrote it.

3. Reports are that Smith, his consultants, a lawyer or two and his publicist have been engaged in intense strategizing since the actor’s Instagram apology “went over like a lead balloon” (one of my father’s favorite metaphors) and the Academy announced that it would be taking some kind of disciplinary action against him. So let’s not pretend that “doing the right thing” had anything to do with the resignation and the letter. If Will Smith cared about “the right thing” to do, or could tell one from an aardvark, he wouldn’t have botched his first two statements, and he wouldn’t have hit Chris Rock.

The latest response was all a matter of professional survival and crisis management. That’s all it was.

3. Those same reports tell us that the resignation from the Academy was decided upon by Smith’s brain trust to ensure that he did not have his Oscar revoked. The theory, we hear, is that by preemptively “accepting” the mildest likely punishment that the Academy was likely to inflict on him (being kicked out of the organization is just an indignity; I’m pretty sure Will Smith won’t lose a lot of sleep over it. It would be like me being kicked out of the ABA), he will avoid the worst punishment. If that’s really their analysis, I don’t think the brain trust is all that brainy after all. There was no chance that the Academy would take away Will’s Oscar, and it would be wrong to do so. Others who have been kicked out of the Academy for far worse (arguably) than what Smith did last week have been allowed to keep their Oscars, notably Harvey Weinstein, and he wasn’t even black. Moreover, the Oscar was and should remain valid: Smith’s performance in “King William” was done, it was recognized for artistic excellence, and has nothing whatsoever to do with Smith’s personal character or professional failings.

4. There is a taint of “You can’t fire me, I quit!” to the timing of the resignation, which I would mark as one of the two flaws in his statement. The other is that Smith still hasn’t personally apologized to Chris Rock. That is either cowardly, or despite his expansive apology to the comedian in the statement, it suggests that his apology is insincere…

5…which I strongly suspect it is. Will Smith is sorry about what may happen to his career, and that’s all. If his outburst during the Oscars was truly a matter of “snapping” for a moment, as his apologists claim (among other excuses), the real apology wouldn’t have taken five days to materialize.


Pointer: Longtime commenter Neil Dorr



10 thoughts on “Now We Have Will Smith’s “Real” Apology

  1. Quitting the Academy just means ge can’t vote on future nominations. Not much of a consequence, even though the world will say, “he’s paid the price, let’s move on.”

    His PR staff did a better job this time but it is damage control at this point. Let’s see if he gets future movie roles (I wonder if he will . . .). That will speak louder than anything teeth grinding and garment rending.


  2. Will Smith is one of those rare celebrities who achieved fame in music, TV and movies just by being exceptionally talented and funny. I always liked him for that reason. He made his own way.

    Unfortunately as a Hollywood icon he’s gotten into some weird, New Age lifestyle choices that have made a mess of him and his children. A lot of that is because of his relationship to Jada, which he is still responsible for.

    • Will Smith has profound unresolved feelings about Jada sexing with another man and then discussing on national television. His uncontrolled lizard brain rage manifested not just with the slap but you can really see it on his face while hurling the F-bombs. Smith’s reaction was terribly disproportionate to the benign joke, signaling a deeper issue.

      Smith may claim to be open minded, open marriage, but the public revelation by Jada is emasculating and humiliating for Will. Jada committed a major passive aggressive betrayal of her husband by chatting with the girls on TV. How do their kids process mommy (technicallynot) cheating on daddy and then telling the world? Proglibocrats sure know how to parent.
      Will Smith snapped and projected his pain, anger, resentment, onto Rock.

      Smith’s ghosted apology reads like a calculated point by point response to the most dominant headlines and sentiment of the past few days while supposedly an eruption of genuine contrition.
      I hope apology #4 is better.

  3. I don’t think it’s fair to assume the worst about him.
    What he did would take a LOT of time to process.

    When one snaps the way he did, it’s not because you had a bad day.
    In my experience it’s because of a lot of things which have been buried, denied and all those things were trigged in that moment.

    Will is a human being and I think it’s on us to extend a bit of mercy and kindness when we see good actions.

    No one knows if the apologized to Chris Rock yet, and I don’t blame him or Chris if they kept it private, for now.

    I just think that we could refrain from being so judgemental about every move he makes and if it means he’s sorry or not, or assign motives to everything.

    Unless we know for certain, those things are pure speculation.

    Why not hope the best?

    I am speaking from experience. I am a bit reluctant to share them but I will for the sake of maybe some understanding and mercy being extended his way.

    At my wedding, my brother was angry at my dad for a comment he made to my little sister. We didnt hear the comment but my little sister was upset and cried so my brother felt he needed to defend her. (she was approx 20 years old)

    He went up to my dad, during the dancing part of the reception and told him to leave. When my dad didn’t, he was so angry he grabbed a nearby chair and hurled it into my dad and a leg of the chair hit my dad right below the eye. This was in front of my dad’s entire family and friends and thankfully my dad sat down, and my brother, realizing what he did, turned and walked away. Thankfully it was dark in that corner of the room so not many saw it. I was humiliated. anyone would say my brother over reacted. and yes, he did based on what happened that night.

    But his reaction was years and years of pent up frustration and trauma about my dad’s abuse. My brother and dad took years to heal over that and my brother is still learning what it was that snapped that night! (i’ve been married 33 years)

    At another event, about 7 years ago, at my dad’s birthday party, my cousin got upset at what he thought was happening with his dad and my brother and ran and jumped on my brother, choking him saying “I’m gonna kill you!” my cousin snapped too! My cousin just apologized to me last year over that, even though I wasn’t there and expressed his horror and shame over his actions. He’s made amends to my entire family yet still is seeking to find out what it was that made him snap.

    Oddly enough, my dad and uncle were both raised by a violent father, and growing up, they both on occasion displayed out of line tempers and were bullies and my cousin and brother (and me and my siblings) were terrified of them as children.

    I NEVER saw either of them (cousin or brother) be violent ever my entire life, and they said apart from the events I shared, they had not been. I believe them.

    Funny as i write this I just realized they both at the time they attacked another person in public, were going through some pretty shitty things with their spouses which were not fully in the light. We later learned of my brother’s unfaithful wife, as well as my cousins, and they were really going thru a lot personally.

    All that to say, both are good men who had seen their dad’s be violent on a few occasions. Both of them vowed to never be that way, yet both snapped once.

    I just think there are so many things we do not know about people’s personal lives and what they go through that it’s not a bad thing to hope the best when they are attempting to make amends. it’s easy to assume the worst because Will is a celebrity but what if he is sincere?

    Anyone but a cold, uncaring human who is evil would not be remorseful. So what if he has a team to help him? He could be very sincere as well.

    I read a black man’s blog who works with black men and his advice to “whites” was, “This is family business, you have no idea what we do in our culture, this shit happens all the time. Butt out.”

    While I didn’t fully agree with his blog post, he did share things I had NO idea about growing up black.

    My examples were from my hispanic side of the family and I wish I could say I wasn’t ashamed of it being what I heard about from that entire side. My Italian side, I never saw any violence, doesn’t mean other didn’t.

    Anyway, I’m sorta rambling and this will probably get eaten anyway, but I just think we need to believe the best for Will Smith and his family and his emotional healing that he needs, (I read his step dad or dad was violent and a young Will saw him do that)

    Most men are still young boys in big guys bodies, and many still carry trauma that they experienced as innocent powerless boys. I think we can extend compassion to them.

    I have spoken to my husband quite candidly about men being isolated and not having places to vent and share like women do and he agreed. He said it’s rare and many men carry so much pain. He used to have a book called “the secrets men keep” and I read it years ago (over 20) and was shocked. I asked him if it was true and he said, “Yup.”

    Anyway, being one of the few women here, I wanted to chime in. Maybe my take is a woman’s take? Not sure but I sure have a lot of respect for you all, and if any of you snapped like Will did, I would NOT judge you for one bad moment. I’d remember all the good you have done and all the contributions you have made in my life via your posts here.

    And.. if we want to judge someone on one bad moment, then logically, shouldn’t we judge them on one good one too? No. We don’t.

    These things take time to work out IF done properly. Will have a tough road ahead. No one snaps like that cuz of a joke. There’s some deep pain he’s carrying. Maybe this will be a blessing in disguise for him to heal. And in turn, he just may inspire many from this. I hope so. Our world needs it.

      • No it never did.

        Weird thing is, it can happen from my phone or computer!
        And, after I make a comment, I have to log onto WordPress or it won’t allow me to comment.

        It also won’t remember me, despite me checking the box saying to.

        Am I cursed? Lol.

        Just know, I really love this blog or I’d not bother… cuz it’s sorta a hassle.

        Wonder if it happens to others who give up?

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