Billy Crystal Says Will Smith Smacking Chris Rock at Oscars Is 'a Crime'

"I was concerned very much for the mental state of Will," Billy Crystal added as he shared his thoughts on Will Smith hitting Chris Rock

Billy Crystal is weighing in on Will Smith striking Chris Rock at the 94th Academy Awards last month.

During the ceremony, Smith, 53, walked onstage at the Oscars and struck Rock, 57, in response to a joke the comedian made about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith's shaved head. Pinkett Smith has been open about living with alopecia. After hitting Rock, Smith returned to his seat and shouted, "Keep my wife's name out of your f---ing mouth!" to a stunned Rock, who moved the show forward by presenting the award after being initially speechless.

While on CNN+'s Who's Talking to Chris Wallace, Crystal first said Rock's joke "wasn't a great" one, adding, "Why go after her? I thought it was misplaced."

"I love Chris and we're friends and I so respect him. I just thought it was wrong," the actor and comedian continued.

Chris Rock, Billy Crystal, Will Smith
Al Seib /A.M.P.A.S. via Getty; Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic; Jason Merritt/Getty

He added that he was watching the Oscars live and shared his initial reaction, calling Smith's move a "crime."

"Uh-oh. Uh-oh," said Crystal, of his reaction. "And then, fortunately –– it was a horrible thing and it's a crime –– the fortunate thing is it wasn't a closed fist. 'Cause then you might have had a Kermit Washington situation," he added, referencing former Los Angeles Lakers player Washington who threw a nearly-fatal punch at Houston Rockets small forward Rudy Tomjanovich during a game in 1977, per the Associated Press.

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Crystal–– who has hosted the Oscars nine times –– added, "I thought Chris handled himself as well as he could and to keep it together. It was a shocking moment that I was concerned very much for the mental state of Will. I was very worried and concerned and shocked by the aftermath of that too."

The When Harry Met Sally... star previously shared his thoughts on the controversial slap, telling Bob Costas on the HBO Max series Back on the Record, that it was the "most disturbing incident."

Added Crystal: "It was an assault. I've had experiences. I hosted the Grammys three times and I've been thrown things," per Deadline.

Earlier this month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' board of governors decided to ban Will from Oscars ceremonies and other Academy events for the next 10 years.

RELATED VIDEO: How Will Smith Smacking Chris Rock at the Oscars — and the Aftermath — Unfolded

The Academy determined that "for a period of 10 years from April 8, 2022, Mr. Smith shall not be permitted to attend any Academy events or programs, in person or virtually, including but not limited to the Academy Awards," per a letter sent by Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson and obtained by PEOPLE.

"During our telecast, we did not adequately address the situation in the room. For this, we are sorry. This was an opportunity for us to set an example for our guests, viewers and our Academy family around the world, and we fell short — unprepared for the unprecedented," they added in part.

"I accept and respect the Academy's decision," Smith said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

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