Downing Street has criticised the actions of Will Smith after the actor slapped comedian Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars, saying that “striking someone is never the answer”.
The King Richard star stormed the stage after Rock made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, referring to her hair loss.
Smith later went on to win best actor at the 94th Academy Awards.
As the slap reverberated around the world, British politicians on both sides were among those to condemn the incident.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said he had not spoken to Boris Johnson about the matter as the PM had been “speaking to leaders on Ukraine”.
He added: “On this, I think the Education Secretary was entirely right this morning – obviously striking someone is never the answer.”
Earlier, Nadhim Zahawi told LBC that “violence is never the answer” but also said that Rock had been “mistaken” to make a joke that was “below the belt”.
“Violence is never the answer to any problem-solving, as Will Smith admitted himself in that tearful, heart-wrenching apology,” he said.
“I think we should also remember – and I’m the Education Secretary – that actually sometimes even a joke can be below the belt.
“When a joke is about somebody’s wife and her illness – she has alopecia – it is wrong. I think Chris Rock was mistaken to do that to Mrs Smith.”
He added: “I have to say, a first Oscar for one of my favourite actors was wonderful to see – marred by that incident, sadly.
“You could see Will Smith – and my heart was broken when I saw him, that tearful apology, he apologised immediately.
“It was hard for him because it was someone who made a joke about his wife and her illness. That’s not easy but he regretted it and he apologised immediately.
“It is heart-breaking when you lose control of your emotions in that way, but I think it is important not to allow yourself to cross that line, and he apologised immediately, which is good to see.
“A very talented man, his first Oscar in a fantastic film, King Richard… it is a brilliant film of aspiration for that family, but my heart went out to Will Smith and his family.”
Sir Keir Starmer said Smith’s actions were “wrong”.
The Labour leader acknowledged that attacks on family members stir emotions but said the actor’s response to comedian Chris Rock’s comment fell on the “wrong side of the line”.
Speaking on LBC, the former director of public prosecutions said he was shown a clip of the incident by his own wife.
The Academy does not condone violence of any form.— The Academy (@TheAcademy) March 28, 2022
Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.
Sir Keir said: “Of course, there are circumstances and anybody who insults family members excites something quite emotional in all of us.
“But, on the other hand, to go up and hit someone in that way is wrong, I’m afraid. It was the wrong thing to do.
“It was at the Oscars, it’s got all the cameras there, millions of people watching.”
Sir Keir said he was “struck by the fact that it didn’t appear to me to be completely spontaneous” with Smith appearing to walk up to the stage “quite calmly and then hit someone”.
“I’m sorry, for me that’s the wrong side of the line.”
The Academy said it “does not condone violence of any form” following the incident.