After Will Smith slapped Chris Rock onstage at the Academy Awards, Long Islanders on Monday had mixed views on the incident. Newsday's Faith Jessie reports. Credit: Reece T. Williams, Alejandra Villa Loarca; AP; Photo Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Newsday

Will Smith apologized Monday evening to comedian Chris Rock, whom he slapped without warning onstage at the Academy Awards the night before after hearing a joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith.

"Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive," Smith, 53, wrote on Instagram and Facebook. "My behavior at last night's Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but," he added in a rationalization, "a joke about Jada's medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally."

Smith went on to say, "I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness." He additionally apologized to the Motion Picture Academy and to the ceremony's producers, attendees and viewers, among others.

Rock, 57, had not responded publicly as of 8 p.m. Monday.

Smith's statement came following widespread entertainment-industry condemnation for his striking an unwary Rock following a joke about Pinkett Smith's close-cropped hair. Actor-producer Pinkett Smith has spoken publicly of her hair-loss disease, alopecia, though it was unclear if Rock or any gag writers had been aware.

After the altercation, comic Kathy Griffin tweeted that physical violence against a comedian for telling a joke is unwarranted and sets a dangerous precedent. "Let me tell you something, it's a very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a comedian," she wrote. "Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters." Agreed actor Mark Hamill, "Stand-up comics are very adept at handling hecklers. Violent physical assault … not so much."

Smith later that night won Best Actor for his film "King Richard." In his acceptance speech, he apologized to the Academy and to his fellow nominees, but not to Rock, for his behavior.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Monday said it condemns Smith's actions and it will launch a formal review, reports The Associated Press. In a statement, the film academy said: “The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show. We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our bylaws, standards of conduct and California law.”

The Los Angeles Police Department said Sunday it was aware of the altercation but not pursuing an investigation because the person involved — widely reported to be Rock — declined to file a police report.

Regardless, tweeted filmmaker Rob Reiner "Will Smith owes Chris Rock a huge apology. There is no excuse for what he did. He’s lucky Chris is not filing assault charges." Commack native Rosie O'Donnell applauded Rock for his composure: "[B]ravo 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." She added, "I wish they went to black as soon as he hit Chris — bad decisions by the director and producing team."

Noted actor George Takei, "Many people, especially kids, look up to actors. Because of that, we have an obligation to try to be good role models. With celebrity comes responsibility." Roosevelt-raised radio icon Howard Stern on his SiriusXM radio show Monday said of Smith, "This is a sign of great mental illness when you can't control your impulse," according to a transcription by Us Weekly.

Defending Smith was rapper Nicki Minaj, who said in a four-part tweet that the audience saw "in real time what happens in a man's soul when he looks over to the woman he loves & sees her holding back tears from a 'little joke' at her expense. This is what any & every real man feels in that instant. while y'all seeing the joke he's seeing her pain." Smith's 23-year-old son Jaden Smith tweeted proudly, "And That's How We Do It."

And actor Jameela Jamil tweeted, "Will Smith said 'Not Today'. A man big enough to absolutely floor him, slapped him softly enough that Chris barely moved, because he made fun of his wife's alopecia on a world stage. Don't say #protectBlackwomen for two years and then only condemn Will here." In a follow-up she clarified, "I'm saying to *only* condemn him is wrong. … Only focusing on the physical violence allows for the emotional violence to just be gotten away with."

With AP

Television ratings for the Oscars rebounded somewhat from last year's record low, but the event clearly doesn't have the appeal to viewers that it once had.

Sunday's ceremony reached an estimated 15.36 million viewers, according to preliminary Nielsen company numbers released on Monday by ABC. A more detailed estimate is expected Tuesday, with elements like out-of-home viewing added.

Held in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 ceremony had reached a startlingly low 9.85 million viewers. That led to several changes in the Oscars going into this year, including the addition of hosts and awarding eight categories ahead of the broadcast and editing them into the live show.

While that clearly seemed to help, an audience of 15 million is still below the 23.6 million people who watched the Oscars in 2020. Until last year, that was the smallest-ever audience for an Oscars ceremony.

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