Before Rock presented an award, he made a joke directed at Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who was seated in the front row near the center of the stage. Rock joked that he was looking forward to Jada’s role in “G.I. Jane 2,” referencing her bald hairstyle. Jada struggles with an auto-immune condition that causes hair loss called alopecia.
The cameras showed Smith first laughed at the joke while his wife expressed her displeasure. The movie superstar who played Muhammad Ali in 2001 then uninvitedly walked up to center stage during a live broadcast and struck Rock with a slap across his face. As a shocked Rock attempted to professionally regain his composure, Smith returned to his seat and yelled at the presenter to “keep my wife’s name out your [expletive] mouth.”
During a commercial break, both Washington and Tyler Perry could be seen counseling Smith. Before the night was over, Smith took home his first Oscar after winning Best Actor for his role in “King Richard.” In his acceptance speech, Smith thanked and referenced Washington’s words to him.
“Pastor Washington,” Jakes said, “you stepped in the middle of World War III. We were looking at Ukraine and it happened on the Oscars.”
“When Will [Smith], who I love, smacked Chris [Rock], who I love, you came in as a senior statesmen into that situation,” Jakes said, pleading with Washington to explain what happened to these legendary icons who got into a fight in front of the world.
Washington replied, “There’s a saying when the devil ignores you then you know you’re doing something wrong.” As the audience gasped, like a preacher, Washington told them, “Wait a minute. I’m not done now.”
“You know, the devil goes, ‘Oh no leave him alone, he’s my favorite,’” Washington explained. “When the devil comes at you, maybe it’s because you’re trying to do something right and, for whatever reason, the devil got a hold of that circumstance that night. Fortunately, there were people there—not just me, but others in the gap—Tyler Perry came immediately over there with me.”
Washington shared that they prayed with Smith but kept what they said confidential.
“There but for the grace of God go any of us,” the actor told Jakes. “Who are we to condemn?”