“The Slap” – A Free Speech Perspective

A cruel joke by one entertainer, a foolish and violent act by another? A celebration ruined? Or an awkward and ugly symbol of our polarized times? However one interprets “the slap,” attendees of the 2022 Academy Awards and viewers around the world were stunned and confused when actor Will Smith assaulted comedian Chris Rock for a remark aimed at Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett. Politically and culturally, what are the Free Speech implications of this incident that caught the attention of tens of millions of people around the world? Were real or imagined lines crossed, and what lessons are to be taken from it?

Panelists include Randall Kennedy, professor at Harvard Law School and author of Race, Crime, and the Law; Nadine Strossen, former national president of the American Civil Liberties Union and professor at New York Law School; and Eisa Nefertari Ulen, journalist, professor of Black diaspora literature at Hunter College and fiction writing at Baruch College.

Recorded April 7, 2022.