For over 15 years, Will Smith has been entertaining audiences first as a hip-pop star, later as the star of the audience-friendly “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and currently as a blockbuster A-List talent.
But all it takes is one misstep and and Smith could find his reservoir of goodwill bankrupt.
Over the weekend while promoting his latest film, “I Am Legend,” Smith gave an interview to a Scottish newspaper, The Daily Record. Reportedly, he said the following about Adolph Hitler: “Even Hitler didn’t wake up going, ‘let me do the most evil thing I can do today.’ I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was ‘good.’”
Unfortunately for Smith, the writer preceded Smith’s quote by stating, “Remarkably, Will believes everyone is basically good,” which other celebrity gossip sites and bloggers twisted Smith’s comment to have readers believe that he said that Hitler was a “good” person.
A pissed off Smith (and rightfully so) angrily went on the offensive by stating, “It is an awful and disgusting lie. It speaks to the dangerous power of an ignorant person with a pen. I am incensed and infuriated to have to respond to such ludicrous misinterpretation. Adolf Hitler was a vile, heinous vicious killer responsible for one of the greatest acts of evil committed on this planet,” stated Smith.
I understand that the holiday season generally makes for a series of slow news days but to paint Will Smith as anti-Semitic is a bit of a stretch. Consistently during his career, Smith’s music, comedy and his films have generally been colorblind and fun-filled.
This is not a situation where Smith said too much after an alcohol binge (Mel Gibson) or made an inappropriate joke on a talk-show host’s couch (Halle Berry), this is a situation where an actor gave an opinion and the interviewer twisted the context only after he received an answer that left room for further interpretation.
The Jewish Defense league (JDL) issued a statement saying that, “(He) spit on the memory of every person murdered by the Nazis. His disgusting words stick a knife in the backs of every veteran who fought (and sometimes died) to save the world from the intentions of Adolf Hitler.” In addition they want Barack Obama to repudiate Smith’s comments, and wants theaters to pull Smith’s new flick “I Am Legend” from their screens.
Smith may have had his statement taken out of context, but has he suddenly become the Devil Incarnate? Smith is an A-list actor/producer who has no history of having one hateful bone in his body. Could he have used better judgment? Clearly. Should he have been more thoughtful with his words? Absolutely. Would I turn my back on him and toss him out with the morning garbage? Absolutely not!
And Obama should not either. If he bows to pressure to distance himself from Smith, a large group of his constituents and myself would be very unhappy. Should Smith apologize? Absolutely, but a person’s history and body of work should clearly overshadow one mistake.
Second chances are what this country is all about, especially when your words are taken out of context to sell magazines and newspapers.