Denzel Washington says he prayed with Will Smith moments after slap

Denzel Washington, left, talks with Will Smith during the 94th Academy Awards
Denzel Washington, left, talks with Will Smith during the 94th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision via Associated Press)
Share via

After Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on stage, Denzel Washington says he prayed with Smith.

“I don’t want to say what we talked about, but there but for the grace of God go any of us,” Washington said as part of a discussion with Bishop T.D. Jakes on Saturday, according to news outlet the Wrap. “Who are we to condemn? I don’t know all the ins and outs of this situation, but I know the only solution was prayer, the way I saw it, the way I see it.”

Washington was speaking as part of Jakes’ international leadership summit held in North Carolina.


The incident has drawn a lot of handwringing in Hollywood. Rock made a joke comparing the hairstyle of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, to Demi Moore’s buzzcut in the 1997 movie “G.I. Jane.” Some have called the joke insensitive because Pinkett Smith has talked about her struggles with hair loss caused by alopecia. After Rock made the joke, Smith got out out of his seat, walked onto the stage and slapped Rock in the face.

Actor and TV host Jada Pinkett Smith went public with her alopecia diagnosis in 2018. Here’s what she’s said about hair loss since.

March 28, 2022

As the stunned audience tried to figure out what had just happened, Washington, who was seated nearby, approached Smith and they prayed, Washington said.

“There’s a saying: When the devil ignores you, then you know you’re doing something wrong,” Washington said Saturday, according to the Wrap, which livestreamed the discussion. “The devil goes, ‘Oh, no, leave him alone, he’s my favorite’. Conversely, when the devil comes at you, maybe it’s because he’s trying to do something right. And for whatever reason, the devil got ahold of him that night.”

Smith on Friday resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In a letter, Smith apologized to Rock and his family, and to Smith’s own friends and loved ones, as well as those who watched or attended the event.

“I betrayed the trust of the Academy,” Smith wrote. “I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work. I am heartbroken.”

Will Smith has resigned from the film academy and says he’s willing to accept whatever punishment is coming his way.

April 1, 2022

The slap has raised questions over how the academy and Smith handled the incident.

Oscars co-host Wanda Sykes said on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” this week that she’s still a little traumatized by it.


“And for [the academy] to let him stay in that room and enjoy the rest of the show and accept his [best actor] award. I was like, ‘How gross is this? This is the wrong message.’” Sykes told DeGeneres. “You assault somebody, you get escorted out of the building.”

The academy said it would move forward with its disciplinary hearings against Smith for violations of its standards of conduct.