The incident has been referred to as “the slap heard around the world,” after Rock made a G.I. Jane joke about Pinkett Smith, who suffers from alopecia and suffers hair loss. Smith took issue with the joke and walked onto the Oscars stage from his front-row seat and open-palm slapped Rock across the face.
Smith returned to his seat and shouted for Rock to “Keep my wife’s name out of your f–-ing mouth!”
In an interview with Hoda Kotb of NBC’s Today show, set to air in its entirety Friday night, Pinkett Smith said that she and Rock had a brief conversation immediately after the slap while snippets for the best documentary nominees were being shown.
“Chris looks to me and he says, ‘Jada, I meant no harm,'” she recalls. “I’m just out of it because I’m really worried about Will. And Will’s still talking. Now he’s mad because Chris is talking to me.”
“And I go, ‘Chris, this is about some old s–t.’ That’s all I could think of saying, right? And I couldn’t really take in his apology.”
As of this writing, Rock has not publicly commented on or corroborated Pinkett Smith’s claims. Neither has Smith.
According to Pinkett Smith, she and Rock have a long history together. The Matrix Reloaded actor said in an interview with People this week that Rock asked her out on a date while rumours were swirling that she and Smith were headed for divorce.
“I think every summer, all the reports would come out that me and Will were getting a divorce. And this particular summer, Chris, he thought that we were getting a divorce,” she said.
“So he called me and basically he was like, ‘I’d love to take you out.’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ He was like, ‘Well, aren’t you and Will getting a divorce?’ I was like, ‘No. Chris, those are just rumors.’ He was appalled. And he profusely apologized, and that was that.”
As for Smith’s motivations on Oscar night in 2022, he explained in an interview that took place shortly after the jaw-dropping ceremony that there were “many nuances and complexities” as to why he slapped Rock.
“But at the end of the day, I just — I lost it.”
And yet, while Pinkett Smith and Smith are still legally married, they are no longer romantically together, Pinkett Smith shared in the interview with Kotb.
“It was not a divorce on paper,” Kotb clarified.
“Right,” Pinkett Smith responded.
“…but it was a divorce,” Kotb said.
“Divorce,” Pinkett Smith emphasized.
According to Pinkett Smith, the pair have been separated since 2016 while maintaining the appearance of being a committed, married couple in the public eye.
“By the time we got to 2016, we were just exhausted with trying. I think we were both kind of just still stuck in our fantasy of what we thought the other person should be,” she said.
So when Smith told Rock to “keep my wife’s name” out of his mouth after the Oscars slap, Pinkett Smith said she was shocked.
“We haven’t called each other husband and wife in a long time. I’m like ‘What is going on right now?'”
After the slap, Smith went on to win the best actor award for his role in King Richard. He has also been banned from Academy Awards for 10 years.
Discussing his behaviour that night, Kotb said it seemed “totally out of character” for Smith.
“It’s not him whatsoever,” Pinkett Smith agreed.