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Numerous comics took to social media and expressed their shock after the actor, 53, hit the fellow comedian and Oscar presenter, 57, during the televised ceremony.
“Will Smith is lucky his momma wasn’t there tonight,” tweeted George Wallace. “She would’ve kicked his a– for acting like that.”
“Will Smith owes Chris Rock a huge apology,” chimed filmmaker Rob Reiner. “There is no excuse for what he did. He’s lucky Chris is not filing assault charges. The excuses he made tonight were bulls—t.”
“So upsetting – on every level – bravo to Chris Rock – for not eviscerating will smith – which he could do any day of the week – he walked away – bravo from a sad display of toxic masculinity from a narcissistic madman,” noted Rosie O’Donnell.
“So it wasn’t staged and Chris Rock could press charges against Will Smith and probably sue his dumb a–! Wow! So surreal!” added Tommy Chong.
Others wondered if they’ll have to watch their backs during their own gigs for making a remark that would upset an audience member.
“Let me tell you something, it’s a very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a Comedian,” Kathy Griffin explained. “Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters.”
“Very nervous for my shows at the @TheIrvineImprov tomorrow and Tuesday. Anyone have a catcher’s mask I can borrow?” joked Patton Oswalt.
“Just saw the Will Smith slap. Anyone have a late night show I can borrow just for tomorrow?” added Conan O’Brien.
“If the punch stands, comedy clubs better up their insurance (and their security), right?” questioned Preet Bharara.
In a series of since-deleted tweets, director Judd Apatow called the incident “pure out of control rage and violence.”
“He could have killed him,” he wrote. “That’s pure out of control rage and violence. They’ve heard a million jokes about them in the last three decades. They are not freshman in the world of Hollywood and comedy. He lost his mind.”
Two hours after the incident, The Academy issued a statement urging for the focus to be on the winners of the evening.
“The Academy does not condone violence of any form,” the tweet read. “Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”
The drama unfolded during Hollywood’s biggest night of the year, after Rock took aim at Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head.
“Jada, I love you. ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it, all right?” Rock joked, referring to the 1997 film “G.I. Jane,” starring Demi Moore, who shaved her head to portray a fictional Navy Seal candidate.
Pinkett Smith, 50, revealed in 2018 that she was diagnosed with alopecia. The actress has often discussed the challenges of hair loss on Instagram and other social media platforms.
The joke missed, badly.
Smith walked onto the stage from his front-row seat and took a swing at Rock with an open palm, generating a loud smack. Smith walked back to his seat and shouted for Rock to leave Pinkett Smith alone. Rock replied that he was just making a “G.I. Jane” joke — and Smith yelled back at him a second time.
Smith shouted at Rock, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f—ing mouth,” and the crowd hushed as it became clear this was no act.
The moment shocked the Dolby Theatre audience and viewers at home. At the commercial break, presenter Daniel Kaluuya came up to hug Smith, and Denzel Washington escorted him to the side of the stage. The two talked and hugged and Tyler Perry came over to talk as well.
Smith shared what Washington told him: “At your highest moment, be careful because that’s when the devil comes for you.”
“I’m hoping the Academy invites me back,” said Smith.
Reps for Smith, Pinkett Smith and Rock didn’t immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment. A spokesperson for the Academy also didn’t immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment concerning whether Smith will be invited back to the Oscars.
Smith went on to win his first-ever Academy Award. However, the confrontation overshadowed his milestone accomplishment. He was previously nominated twice for best actor, for his role in “Ali” in 2002 and “The Pursuit of Happyness” in 2007. In those films, he portrayed real-life characters: Boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Chris Garner, a homeless salesman.
This time, Smith won against formidable competition including Andrew Garfield, Javier Bardem, Benedict Cumberbatch and Denzel Washington — who won his first and only best actor Oscar award in 2002 over Smith for “Training Day.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.