JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:
The superstar actor Will Smith has apologized again to Chris Rock, and this time he was looking into a camera.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
WILL SMITH: Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable. And I'm here whenever you're ready to talk.
SUMMERS: You may recall Smith slapped Rock at the Academy Awards after a tough joke about Smith's wife. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans has been following all of this, and he's a little skeptical about this latest move. Hi, Eric.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hi.
SUMMERS: Eric, I have watched the video, but give us some backstory. Do we know why Will Smith released this video today?
DEGGANS: Well, I haven't heard much of a reason for it. The video was released to social media earlier today, and it shows Smith sitting in a room saying that he wanted to answer fair questions from the public. And those questions included, why didn't you apologize to Chris Rock in your Oscar acceptance speech? And Smith says that his head was in a fog. And did his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, tell him to go after Rock? And Smith says he decided that on his own. Smith says he's been thinking about it, and he wanted to speak up. We've got another clip. Let's check it out.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
SMITH: I spent the last three months understanding the nuances and the complexities of what happened. There is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment.
DEGGANS: And, you know, that might be a response to those who tried to justify Smith's behavior by saying he was somehow defending his family.
SUMMERS: Do you think this will help Will Smith regain some of the shine he lost among some fans since all of this happened?
DEGGANS: I actually think so. Will Smith's always been this incredibly likable and charismatic performer. And now he can say that he's apologized directly to the person he slapped. He's apologized to his family and anyone who might have been indirectly hurt by his actions. He's resigned from the Oscars Academy, and he's been banned from their functions for 10 years.
SUMMERS: But Eric, you have said you're skeptical about this. Do you think Will Smith has done enough?
DEGGANS: Well, this is kind of a complex idea, but it's not about doing enough. I think it's about correcting what you actually did wrong. Now first, I think in a way, both Smith and the Oscar Academy missed their moment. The Academy should have ejected Smith the minute he assaulted Rock. And Smith himself should have apologized to Chris Rock, removed himself from the ceremony before he was even given the best actor Oscar. Ultimately, this whole issue was created by Will Smith putting his needs ahead of everyone else. And by releasing this video, Smith has once again placed his need for public redemption ahead of the wishes of the guy he assaulted who said he didn't want to talk.
Now, Chris Rock is in the middle of a comedy tour right now. This video is only going to increase the pressure for him to talk about an incident he's avoided speaking on mostly. And it makes me wonder if Will Smith really has learned the lessons he says he has in the months following this incident.
SUMMERS: All right. That's NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Thanks for breaking it down for us.
DEGGANS: Thanks for having me.
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