Will Smith’s ‘fake’ hand and Chris Rock’s ‘cheek pad’ – the bizarre Oscars 2022 theories debunked

One theory falsely suggested Chris Rock was wearing a ‘cheek pad’, while another claimed Will Smith used his left hand to hit his chest to generate the sound of the slap

Maanya Sachdeva
Wednesday 30 March 2022 08:03 BST
Late-night hosts react to Will Smith Oscars slap
Leer en Español

Online conspiracy theories have flooded social media in the wake of the Will Smith and Chris Rock Oscars drama, falsely suggesting the slap was staged.

On Sunday (27 March), Smith struck and swore at Rock after the comedian made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head during the Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles.

Pinkett Smith had previously opened up about shaving her head after being diagnosed with the auto immune disorder alopecia.

Despite the Academy’s official statement, Smith’s public apology, condemnation from Oscar attendees and a play-by-play account of the moments that led up to the “slap heard around the world”, some social media users have falsely suggested the incident was staged in a bid to resuscitate the Oscars’ dismal viewership figures.

At least two such theories have been debunked.

On Tuesday (29 March), a Twitter user shared what appeared to be a magnified image of Rock’s face when Smith hit him, suggesting the comedian was wearing a “cheek pad” to cushion the blow.

The caption read: “In 8k quality images you can see a pad on Chris Rock’s cheek, yeah conspiracy theorists gonna go crazy with this one.”

Professional images of the slap from the event, however, clearly showed Rock wearing no such contraption, including in the two images below, from photographers Neilson Bernard and Robyn Beck.

The moment when Will Smith struck Chris Rock onstage at the 94th Academy Awards on 27 March (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
Photos captured live at the Oscars ceremony, and available on Getty, show Rock wasn’t wearing a cheek pad during the incident (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Tech website Gizmodo has also explained the “cheek pad” supposedly seen on Rock’s face by pointing out this was likely an artefact caused by upscaling images from the incident.

The publication said that pixelated or low-quality images can be enhanced with phone apps like Remini – but the results are never completely accurate.

Apple TV+ logo

Watch Apple TV+ free for 7 days

New subscribers only. £8.99/mo. after free trial. Plan auto-renews until cancelled

Try for free
Apple TV+ logo

Watch Apple TV+ free for 7 days

New subscribers only. £8.99/mo. after free trial. Plan auto-renews until cancelled

Try for free

These apps help users “scale up” images by guessing what would make the photograph better, adding details to these pictures rather than working with what is already there. The result is a photograph that is of a higher quality, but possibly inaccurate, as is the case with the manipulated image of Rock.

The publication ran one of the images through Remini as well, and was able to generate an image similar to the one being shared on Twitter.

Another debunked theory doing the rounds on social media is that of Smith’s “fake” hand.

Moment Will Smith slaps Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars

Some users falsely claimed Smith used his left hand to hit his chest to generate the sound of the slap, while others wrongly said he used his left hand to hit Rock.

Images and videos of the incident, however, clearly showed Smith’s left hand first in a defensive position as he slapped Rock, then swinging behind him from the momentum of the slap.

Will Smith’s left hand clearly seen here swinging behind him from the momentum of the slap (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Many have called out the conspiracy theories, expressing derision over the suggestion Smith was willing to sacrifice what was arguably the most important night on his career.

One user said in a mocking tweet: “The pad responds to increased friction and is designed to materialise upon impact.”

Another wrote: “It’s crazy because who does this for no reason. It helped no one.”

The 53-year-old was awarded the Oscar for Best Actor shortly after he hit Rock.

Find the full list of 2022 Oscar winners here. See the latest updates and reactions from the dramatic ceremony here, and read about the biggest talking points here.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in