Wanda Sykes on Smith slapping Rock: 'It was sickening'
Los Angeles — Wanda Sykes said she felt physically ill after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock across the face at the Oscars, and she's angry Smith was permitted to stay and collect his award.
Sykes, who co-hosted Sunday at the Dolby Theatre with Amy Schumer and Regina Hall, told Ellen DeGeneres in an interview to air April 7 that she missed the confrontation live as she walked between her trailer and the theater after a costume change.
“Then someone showed me on the video,” Sykes said, “and I just felt so awful for my friend, Chris. It was sickening. I physically felt ill, and I'm still a little traumatized by it."
Smith, seated close to the stage during the awards show, walked up to Rock and slapped him after the comedian made a joke about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. After he walked back to his seat, Smith cursed twice at Rock to “keep my wife’s name out your (expletive) mouth.”
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The room and millions watching live were stunned. Soon after, Smith won his first-ever Academy Award for playing tennis dad Richard Williams in “King Richard” and gave a tearful acceptance speech in which he apologized but not directly to Rock. That came later in a statement.
Sykes, in a video released of her interview by “The Ellen Show,” said letting Smith stay and accept his award should not have happened.
“I was like, how gross is this? This is the wrong message. You assault somebody and you get escorted out the building and that's it. But for them to let him continue, I thought it was gross. I wanted to be able to run out (on stage) after he won and say, 'Uh, unfortunately, Will couldn't be here tonight.'"
Sykes said she caught up with Rock later at a party and he apologized to her.
“I'm like, ‘Why are you apologizing?’ And he was like, ‘It was supposed to be your night. You and Amy and Regina, you all were doing such a great job. I’m so sorry, this is now going to be about this.’”
Schumer, in a since-deleted Instagram post, said she was “triggered and traumatized” by what happened.
“I love my friend @chrisrock and believe he handled it like a pro. Stayed up there and gave an Oscar to his friend @questlove and the whole thing was so disturbing,” she wrote. “So much pain in @willsmith anyway I’m still in shock and stunned and sad.”
Schumer went on, “Im proud of myself and my cohosts. But yeah. Waiting for this sickening feeling to go away from what we all witnessed.”
Sykes had a question for the entertainment industry as a whole.
“We were the hosts. This is our house. We're inviting you in. We're hosting. We're going to take care of you all tonight, make sure you have a good time, and no one has apologized to us,” she said. "We worked really hard to put that show together. Like the industry itself, what the hell is this?”
Hall has not spoken publicly about the confrontation, but others have.
Jim Carrey, who didn't attend the Oscars, told Gayle King in a CBS interview Monday he was “sickened” when the crowd inside the Dolby gave Smith a standing ovation after he won his best actor award.
“I felt like Hollywood is just spineless en masse and it really felt like, oh, this is a really clear indication that we’re not the cool club anymore,” he said.