He was apparently acting on Chris Rock’s wishes.
In what will hopefully be the last update we must digest regarding the Oscars fiasco between Will Smith and Chris Rock, the event’s lead producer is attempting to put the whole thing to rest. Will Packer went on Good Morning America on Friday to answer one question that’s been persistent all week: why was Smith allowed to stay through the ceremony? Packer said that he spoke up at the ceremony to request that Will Smith not get physically removed, after learning that Chris Rock didn’t want the situation to escalate.
ABC News’ T.J. Holmes asked Packer, “Why [Will Smith]...assaulted somebody, went back to his seat and was allowed to stay?” Packer said that after the slap, his co-producer Shayla Cowan informed him that Smith was about to be forcibly removed from the building. He then approached Academy leadership to make the case for Smith to stay. “I said, ‘Chris Rock doesn’t want that. ... Rock has made it clear that he doesn’t want to make a bad situation worse.” He insisted that Chris Rock’s “tone wasn’t retaliatory, was not aggressive or angry,” then continued, “I was advocating what Rock wanted in that time, which was not to physically remove Will Smith.” This is after he says Rock also told the LAPD that he did not want to press charges.
Packer admits that it was explained to him that there was a conversation that he was not a part of in which Smith was asked to voluntarily leave. TMZ reported that Smith was never asked to leave at all, while the Academy has asserted that Smith refused their requests for him to leave the whole time as they began their review for disciplinary action. Regardless, it seems like Packer, who produced the show for the first time this year after years of producing films like Girls Trip and Think Like A Man, was doing his best to avoid extra drama for the broadcast. It’s a fitting final perspective to hear on the incident, as Packer was brought on by the Academy to liven up the awards after two years of a major ratings slump. He certainly got more than he bargained for in that department, but luckily the rest of the show was a success.