Letters to the Editor: Chris Rock owes an apology too, and other reactions to ‘the slap’ from Times readers

Chris Rock and Will Smith
Comedian Chris Rock reacts after actor Will Smith slapped him at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday.
(Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Were you watching the Oscars ceremony live or did you learn later that Will Smith slapped Chris Rock onstage after Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head? The actress has stated that she suffers from an autoimmune disorder called alopecia that causes hair loss. No matter when Times readers heard about “the slap,” they had opinions about Smith’s actions, his apology, how the academy has handled the situation — and if Rock owes Pinkett Smith an apology of his own. Others want to focus on a kinder moment from the ceremony between Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli. Their letters continue to arrive as the aftermath unfolds.


To the editor: I am grateful to LZ Granderson for his column about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock, particularly when he says: “The slap is what monopolizes our attention, but that wasn’t the only form of violence that transpired in that scene.” YAS!!! Everyone is focusing on Smith’s physical violence against Rock and, in doing so, excusing Rock’s verbal violence against Jada Pinkett Smith. Why was it OK to punch down, as it were, on a Black woman? Chris Rock didn’t make fun of Troy Kotsur’s deafness. Why not? Because it would be unacceptable to make fun of a white man’s physical condition related to an illness or disability? Black women bear the brunt of racism and misogyny in the United States. Rock’s “joke” was derogatory, dismissive and dehumanizing. And, as Granderson points out, he should know better, based on his 2009 documentary. I’m not mad at Smith at all in this situation. Rock is the one who should be apologizing.

Inna Parizher, Glendale



To the editor: Greg Braxton writes that with Will Smith’s slap, his journey to honor the Williams family ended in dishonor for many, including “the Black creative community the actor has come to represent.” Mary McNamara goes on to say that it overshadowed a year when “women had the largest presence they’ve ever had at any Academy Awards.”

I feel it is of utmost importance that we distinguish an ugly, mismanaged emotional moment between two human beings for what it is and not label it a tainting of a legacy.

No one person of any race, gender or disability should bear the burden of carrying the weight of all others that identify with that community.

In this time of striving for true inclusiveness, the focus should be on skill, artfulness, talent and other attributes related to the work itself. An unfortunate personal reaction never should have been played out publicly. Misguidedly, it was. Kudos to Chris Rock for being true to himself, for keeping his cool and for not pressing charges.

Ava Wooton, Sherman Oaks


To the editor: I truly hope that the immature and violent actions of one Hollywood celebrity will recede into the background and that the true show of love during these Academy Awards will be highlighted at some point.


I’m speaking of the appearance of Lady Gaga with Liza Minnelli. What a beautiful act of compassion and show of dignity towards a revered star. Gaga’s simple gesture of taking Minnelli’s hand and those words, “I gotcha,” exemplified what love really is... standing next to the person who needs you and offering assurances that you’ll be there when they need you.

Thank you, Lady Gaga, for demonstrating a class act!

Elizabeth Grace, Lakewood


To the editor: Yes, Will Smith punching Chris Rock was intensely uncomfortable and painful to watch. Now, instead of celebrating Smith’s best actor win, everyone wants to diagnose the larger problem — is it toxic masculinity, ableism, sexism?

My unpopular opinion? It’s the Oscars ceremony.

The ceremony constantly disrespects performers they’re ostensibly there to celebrate. That needling is supposed to entertain viewers, so this mix of both honoring and unkindness is built into the process. This encourages bad behavior from hosts and presenters. Many of their comments are pre-scripted. And the show keeps getting nastier and harsher over the years.

I don’t think what happened this year between Smith and Rock should be discussed without considering the larger context of a program that intentionally jabs at those they are supposed to be celebrating. Of course, one can also criticize individual responses — but this also needs to be part of the discussion.

Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the Oscar’s ceremony — the academy abandoned its mission of honoring the movies that we loved and those who made them and instead spends half its time belittling them.


Lou Cabron, Alameda


To the editor: While I don’t condone Will Smith’s reaction to Chris Rock’s “joke,” he at least apologized publicly for the slap. Rock’s laugh line about Jada Pinkett Smith’s alopecia was in poor taste.

I admire Pinkett Smith for her frank discussion about the condition and for showing up “au natural” at the Academy Awards. It shows strength and maturity.

Rock’s “joke” was immature, petty and cruel. And yet the motion picture academy has not called him out, nor has there been a chorus of Hollywood voices asking him to apologize.

What example does it set for our children to see someone like Rock making cutting remarks in the name of humor about an aspect of someone’s appearance that was caused by a medical condition?

Perhaps the first step in correcting this type of behavior is for Rock to apologize publicly to Pinkett Smith. It won’t cure the problem, but it’s a good place to start.


Margaret Lott, Fresno