How ABC tried to censor Will Smith’s slap in the face by Chris Rock

ABC blasted the explosive exchange that followed Will Smith’s smack on Chris Rock’s face during Sunday night’s Oscars – but it didn’t matter as raw footage of the incident leaked to social media just minutes later.

As is usual with broadcasts of live shows, ABC’s feed was delayed by 20 seconds to allow producers to pause or bleep profanity or other ads that may violate Federal Communications Commission guidelines.

But while the audio was cut and censored for a few seconds, subtitles suggested the “King Richard” star said, “Keep my wife’s name out of your friggin’ mouth.”

Meanwhile, international broadcast teams streamed the raw data from the awards ceremony to a global audience. The audio from the uncensored Australian broadcast seems to confirm this, including Rock’s stunned reaction: “Will Smith gave me hell.”

While ABC temporarily spared American viewers the tense Rock Smith exchange, it quickly went viral on their mobile devices.

ABC’s Rob Mills, who starred in the network’s production trailer during the show, said variety that it quickly turned out that the incident was not scripted.

Chris Rock, Will Smith
Americans were able to see an unedited version of what transpired in international broadcast clips that went viral on social media.
Getty Images

Before Smith slapped the comedian, Rock had made a joke about Smith’s wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, starring in the fake action movie because of her bald head. She had previously spoken about hair loss, alopecia.

“Chris Rock came along and I think he did material based on what happened that night, like any comedian will,” Mills told Variety. “He did that [‘G.I. Jane’] to kid. Obviously you could see that the joke didn’t end up on Jada. And then you see Will get up and go upstairs.”

Mills added, “There have certainly been unpredictable moments where people have stood up and done things, so we thought this was one of them.”

When Rock and Smith both used expletives in their reactions, it dawned on ABC producers that this was real.

Chris Rock
ABC producers determined the incident was unscripted after both Rock and Smith used profanity immediately after the slap.
Getty Images

“They started realizing this was real when Chris, who certainly knows the limitations of broadcasting standards, said, ‘Will Smith slapped me in the face,'” Mills said. “That’s when it became clear that it wasn’t a joke.”

Due to the FCC’s strict guidelines on the use of profanity during domestic broadcasts, Mills said he and his team played it safe when censoring the episodes.

“If you’re on the button, which I wasn’t, but our standard people were, I think you’re obviously going towards overcorrecting than letting something come through,” Mills said.

American viewers instead relied on clips from overseas, which don’t have the same strict standards of profanity.

“Americans can be a little more puritanical and outraged about these things,” a BBC radio producer said the Washington Post. How ABC tried to censor Will Smith’s slap in the face by Chris Rock


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