Maureen Dowd in The New York Times:
So, the slap.
Why do people at the top of their careers snap and make wildly self-destructive moves that rip apart everything they have been working to build? In a blink, Will Smith went from Mr. Nice Guy on the verge of winning an Oscar to a crazed assailant in Satan’s grip. “At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you,” Smith said in his acceptance speech, quoting what Denzel Washington told him minutes earlier to calm him down.
Let’s start with the fact that academy officials bungled the whole ugly affair. David Rubin, the president of the academy, should have gone over to Smith during the break and insisted on talking with him backstage. Then, he should have explained the academy’s position and had security guards escort the actor out of the building.
Instead, Hollywood’s big and powerful chickened out and asked Smith’s publicist to talk to him about leaving. His publicist! She no doubt told Smith to sit tight, which was, from a publicity point of view, good guidance. No wonder she was the first one he hugged when he walked offstage with his Oscar. Smith also got good advice from his team when on Friday he admitted he had “betrayed” the academy and resigned from the group — before he could be suspended. “I am heartbroken,” he said in a statement.