Today News Africa reporter Simon Ateba asked White House Communications director Kate Bedingfield to comment on Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars.
“It is the biggest story right now, you saw the level of violence on Chris Rock, is that something that White House condoned? That type of violence, do you condemn it? And do you do anything to support comedians who are being attacked?” Ateba asked Tuesday.
“I don’t have any official comment from the White House on the altercation. I know the president was not able to watch the Oscars and didn’t see it so I don’t have anything. I don’t have any official comment from him or from the White House on that.”
Smith walked up onstage and slapped Chris Rock after the comedian made a joke about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith, who had previously been diagnosed with alopecia. (RELATED: CNN Analyst Implies No Celebrities Walked Out After Will Smith Slapped Chris Rock Because Of Trump)
During the commercial break, Smith was comforted by Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry before tearfully returning to his seat beside Jada and his representative. He later apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees while accepting his first Oscar for Best Actor, saying he acted out of love for his wife.
Media figures have tended to side with Rock, including MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, who criticized those comforting Smith after the altercation. He said people should have made sure Rock was okay before calling Hollywood “a screwed up place.”
“The View” co-host Sunny Hostin said Smith was acting “immature, childish, and violent.” She proceeded to say that Smith did not act out of a show of love, but rather a show of violence.