White House communications director Kate Bedingfield on Tuesday said President Biden “didn’t see” actor Will Smith slap comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars and that the White House therefore could not condemn it.
Journalist Simon Ateba of Today News Africa asked Bedingfield to address the Sunday night slap as she fielded questions in the White House briefing room.
Ateba told the spokeswoman that it was “the biggest story right now.”
“You saw the level of violence that was unleashed on Chris Rock. Is that something that the White House condones — that type of violence? Do you condemn it? And do you do anything to support comedians who have been attacked and other artists?” Ateba asked.
Bedingfield rebuffed the celebrity news inquiry, saying, “I don’t have any official comment from the White House on the altercation.”
“I know the president was not able to watch the Oscars — didn’t see it,” she added. “So I don’t have anything. I don’t have any official comment from him or from the White House on this.”
Ateba followed up, asking, “Do you condemn the violence at the Oscars? Is that something that you condemn?”
Bedingfield repeated, “I don’t have a White House comment on that.”
The communications director was filling in for press secretary Jen Psaki, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, and her deputy Karine Jean-Pierre, who tested positive Sunday after returning from a trip to Europe with Biden.
Smith punched Rock after the comedian referred to Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, as “G.I. Jane.” Smith ran onto the stage and hit Rock in the face. Pinkett Smith suffers from a hair loss disorder called alopecia.
Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, routinely commented on pop culture events on Twitter during his four years in office — until he was banned from the platform last year. Biden, by contrast, generally does not write his own tweets.