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Will Smith was asked to leave the Oscars after slapping Chris Rock but he refused, the Academy says

Will Smith was asked to leave the Oscars after slapping Chris Rock, but he refused, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said in a statement Wednesday. 

"Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated," the statement said. "While we would like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently." 

"Mr. Smith's actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television. Mr. Rock, we apologize to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment," the statement added. "We also apologize to our nominees, guests and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event."

The Academy also said it has initiated disciplinary proceedings against Smith for violating its code of conduct, "including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the integrity of the Academy." 

The Academy's president and CEO said in a letter to its members, obtained by CBS News, that its formal review of Smith's Oscars slap "will take a few weeks." David Rubin and Dawn Hudson noted the review must "follow an official process."

"Sunday's telecast of the 94th Oscars was meant to be a celebration of the many individuals in our community who did incredible work this past year. We are upset and outraged that those moments were overshadowed by the unacceptable and harmful behavior on stage by a nominee," the letter read. "To be clear, we condemn Mr. Smith's actions that transpired Sunday night."

"As outlined in our bylaws, the Academy's Board of Governors will now make a determination on appropriate action for Mr. Smith," they wrote. "As governed by California law regarding members of nonprofit organizations like the Academy, and set forth in our Standards of Conduct, this must follow an official process that will take a few weeks."

Will Smith slaps US actor Chris Rock onstage during the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California, on March 27, 2022. ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

The letter did not elaborate on what possible punishment Smith could be facing for slapping Rock in the face while the comedian was presenting an award and subsequently yelling for him to "keep my wife's name out of your f***ing mouth."

The board has the authority to suspend or expel members who violate the Academy's code of conduct or "compromise the integrity" of the academy. Actress Whoopi Goldberg, who serves on the Academy's Board of Governors, said Monday, "There will be consequences, I'm sure," but also said they would not strip Smith of the Best Actor award that he won roughly 30 minutes after the incident for the film "King Richard."

Rock declined to press charges against Smith for the slap, the Los Angeles Police Department said Sunday night.

Smith apologized to both Rock and the Academy on Tuesday, writing on Instagram that his actions were "unacceptable and inexcusable," and adding that he was "out of line and I was wrong."

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