Will Smith slaps comedian Chris Rock on stage at Sunday’s 94th Oscars was a moment that was hard to believe.
But fake news about the shocking confrontation that toppled one of Hollywood’s biggest nights later came on social media, including a fabricated letter of apology attributed to Rock and a false photo of a celebrity reaction becoming an internet meme has.
Here’s a closer look at claims that have spread widely online.
CLAIM: Rock apologized publicly for his joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, saying he crossed a line I should not have and paid the enormous price of my reputation as a famous comedian.
THE FACTS: The excuse, which included several spelling mistakes, is false. Rock did not apologize so much, a representative of the comedian said in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday afternoon. The fabricated apology attributed to Rock garnered millions of views on social media platforms. “As a comedian, it can be difficult to understand which lines to cross and which not,” reads the false statement. “Last night I crossed a border that I should not have had and paid the enormous price of my reputation as a well-known comedian. Comedy is never about mocking people or making a little bit of it in their lives. Comedy is about using real-life circumstances to create laughter and bring light into an otherwise dark world. ” The false statement continued with direct apologies to Pinkett Smith, Smith and the rest of their family, and a call for forgiveness over time. But Leslie Sloane, a publisher for Rock, confirmed in an email that the apology was false. She did not respond to a question about whether Rock planned to apologize. Smith walked on stage, slapped Rock and then returned to his seat, shouting twice at the comedian to “get my wife’s name out of your mouth.” Smith responded to a joke Rock made about Pinkett Smith’s shaved head and said he could not wait to see “GI Jane 2”. Pinkett Smith spoke publicly about her diagnosis of alopeciaa disease that causes hair loss. Smith went on to win Best Actor for his role as Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena, in “King Richard”. During his five-minute acceptance speech, Smith talked about defending his family. He also apologized to the academy. On Monday, he apologized more strongly on Instagram and through his publisher, including an apology to Rock.
CLAIM: A photo shows actress Nicole Kidman panting in response to Smith slapping Rock at the Oscars.
THE FACTS: The photo was taken hours before Smith slapped Rock, during the non-television portion of the awards ceremony. According to the photographer who took the picture, Kidman was reacting to the sight of her co-nominee for Best Actress, Jessica Chastain, who later won the award. The photo of Kidman sitting in the audience at the Oscars – arm outstretched and mouth open – spread quickly online moments after Smith and Rock’s confrontation. “‘The Slap’ was so powerful that it made Nicole Kidman’s face move for the first time in 11 years,” wrote one Twitter user, sharing the photo of Kidman who has now become a popular meme. “Nicole Kidman who responds to (little star) that slap (little star) is all of us browsing Twitter this morning,” an Irish magazine wrote on Instagram. But as New York Magazine blog Vulture reported Monday, the photo was actually taken during the non-television portion of the ceremony, hours before the slap happened. It appeared on Twitter as early as 7:34 p.m. EDT. The television section of the Oscars started at 20:00 EDT. “Nicole Kidman is responding to seeing his co-nominee Jessica Chastain in the Dolby Theater on Sunday night,” reads a Los Angeles Times caption for the image, taken by LA Times photographer Myung Chun. Chun confirmed in an email to the Associated Press that his photo metadata shows that he took the image at 19:19 EDT, which was about three hours before the meeting between Smith and Rock. “It seemed to me that Nicole Kidman was reacting to the fact that she saw Jessica Chastain across the room during the non-television event,” he said, adding: “She reached out with both arms and waved her hands at her. Shortly afterwards, Chastain came over to meet Kidman and her husband Keith Urban. ” Chastain went on to win Best Actress for her role in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” in which she portrays the rise, fall and redemption of television star Tammy Faye Bakker.
Associated Press author Sophia Tulip in Atlanta contributed to this report.
It’s part of Associated Press’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including working with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content circulating online. Learn more about fact checking at Associated Press.