Oscars show-runner Will Packer says the altercation between Will Smith and Chris Rock at the 94th Academy Awards was “a very painful moment for me”.
Smith stormed onstage and hit the comedian in front of a star-studded audience at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, after Rock made a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith and her hair loss.
Red Table Talk host Pinkett Smith has previously spoken about her struggles with alopecia and said it is what prompted her to shave her head.
The incident generated enormous backlash on social media and across Hollywood, with the Academy saying it “does not condone violence in any form”, and involvement from the Los Angeles Police Department.
Packer initially responded to the incident by saying: “Welp… I said it wouldn’t be boring #Oscars,” a comment that drew some criticism.
He later tweeted: “Black people have a defiant spirit of laughter when it comes to dealing with pain because there has been so much of it. I don’t feel the need to elucidate that for you.
“But I also don’t mind being transparent and say that this was a very painful moment for me. On many levels.”
US comedian and former Oscars host Whoopi Goldberg said Smith had “made a mistake” and that the Academy would not take his best actor prize from him.
“We’re not going to take that Oscar from him,” she said, speaking on her talk show The View.
“There will be consequences, I’m sure, but I don’t think that that’s what they’ll do, particularly because Chris said, ‘Listen, I’m not pressing any charges’.
“(Smith) made a mistake… overreactions, mistakes were made. I think he overreacted.
“He had one of those moments where he was like… just stop. And you’ve got all the pressure of hoping that you win and trying to keep your face.
“I get it, not everyone acts the way we would like them to under pressure, some people just snap. He snapped.
“I don’t know if they spoke or if he apologised or not, all I know is that sometimes you get to a point and you behave badly.”
Other celebrities defended Smith, with comedian Tiffany Haddish saying the incident was “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen”.
“When I saw a black man stand up for his wife. That meant so much to me,” she told People magazine at the Governors Ball after the ceremony.
“Maybe the world might not like how it went down, but for me, it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen because it made me believe that there are still men out there that love and care about their women, their wives.”
Smith’s son Jaden Smith, 23, also appeared to defend his father’s actions, tweeting: “And That’s How We Do It”.
Tennis star Serena Williams, whose father was played by Smith in King Richard, shared a video on her Instagram story showing her looking shocked, later admitting she “had to put her drink down”.
Rapper 50 Cent shared a photo of the moment on Instagram and wrote: “B!tch don’t you ever play with me. LOL.”
After being named best actor for his performance in King Richard, Smith used his acceptance speech to apologise to the Academy and “all my fellow nominees” – but not Rock.
Other famous faces criticised the incident, including Star Wars actor Mark Hamill, who dubbed it the “ugliest Oscar moment ever”.
He added: “Stand-up comics are very adept at handling hecklers. Violent physical assault… not so much.”
Actress Mia Farrow tweeted: “It was just a joke. Jokes are what Chris Rock does.
“Always has been edgy. This was a mild joke for him. And I love GI Jane.”
The Last Samurai producer Marshall Herskovitz urged the Academy to do more than simply issue a statement in response to the incident.
He said on Twitter: “I call upon the Academy, of which I am a member, to take disciplinary action against Will Smith.
“He disgraced our entire community tonight.”
Comedian Kathy Griffin suggested Smith set a bad precedent for her profession.
She said on Twitter: “Let me tell you something, it’s a very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a Comedian.
“Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters.”
Strictly Come Dancing judge Motsi Mabuse, who was born in South Africa, described it as “internally one of the biggest and disappointing shameful moment ever” and criticised Smith and Rock.