Fact Check

Did Will Smith Advocate 'Cleansing America of Trump Supporters'?

The actor was talking about Islamophobia in America.

Published April 6, 2023

 (Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)
Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons
Claim:
Will Smith advocated "cleansing" the United States of Trump supporters with the words, “We get to know who people are and now we get to cleanse it out of our country.”
Context

Right before he made the above comment, Smith was talking about a "cleansing" that occurs through honest dialogue. He compared addressing the Islamophobic vitriol in the U.S. to a marriage counseling session in which a couple expresses their darkest thoughts to reach a point of “understanding” and “moving forward in our relationship.”

A 2016 comment made by actor Will Smith has gone viral for allegedly calling for a "cleansing" of Trump supporters from the U.S. Smith made the comments at a Dubai news conference for the "Suicide Squad" film in August 2016, after being asked by a reporter if he had any comment on Islamophobia in the U.S. 

At the time, Trump's campaign for the presidency was ongoing, during which Trump used anti-Muslim rhetoric and proposed policies targeting Muslim communities. 

In April 2023, a Twitter user shared video of a section of Smith's comments, writing, "Disgraced actor, Will Smith, advocated genocide against Republicans." The video was captioned, "Will Smith: 'Cleanse America of Trump supporters!'"

In the clip, Smith says, "As painful as it is to hear Donald Trump talk and as embarrassing as it is as an American to hear him talk, I think it's good. We get to know who people are and now we get to cleanse it out of our country."

His words were taken out of context and misrepresented, however. Smith did not advocate for genocide, nor did he call for cleansing American of Trump supporters.

As can be seen in the full video of the interview, Smith was asked the following question: "As a public figure you are coming from the U.S. to the Middle East at a time of Islamophobia, a lot of turmoil happening in this region. What kind of message do you have for people that are seeing it from the outside, what message can you put out there?" 

Smith begins to respond to the question at the 38 minute mark in the Facebook video below:

"It's important to show up," Smith said. "It's like, I'm in Dubai and I'm having fun and I'm tweeting and I'm showing pictures: 'Hey! It doesn't look like they hate me, does it?' I think the imagery of it is hugely important to me."

He then went on to talk about the actual Islamophobia prevalent in the U.S., comparing the vitriol to the feelings that come out in a marriage counseling session (emphasis ours): 

[...] I feel very very confident that what we're seeing happening in America right now is a cleansing, that things are coming to the surface. I think of things in terms of marriage counseling [...] What happens in a marriage once you do counseling and the truth comes out. And you sit across from your wife, and you've said all of your truth and she's said all of her truth, and you look at each other and you can't imagine you could possibly ever love each other again [...] it creates a dark moment, but for me it's the dark before the dawn, when the truth comes out and the people have to stand up and say who they are and what they think and you get to know who they are. I think that's the cleansing before we get to the other side that is understanding, that is moving forward in our relationship. 

As painful as it is to hear Donald Trump talk and as embarrassing as it is as an American to hear him talk, I think it's good. We get to know who people are and now we get to cleanse it out of our country.

Ultimately, Smith used the term "cleansing" to mean a form of truth-telling, a dialogue in which the parties come to understand one another's grievances and move forward in a relationship. The full text of his comments shows that he was not advocating for a "genocide of Republicans" or a "cleansing of Trump supporters" from the U.S.  

We thus rate this claim as "False." 

Sources

"The Islamophobic Administration." Brennan Center for Justice. https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/islamophobic-administration. Accessed 6 Apr. 2023.

"Will Smith Talks about the Suicide Squad | Watch: Will Smith Live in Dubai." Gulf News | Facebook, Aug. 7, 2016. https://www.facebook.com/GulfNews.UAE/videos/will-smith-talks-about-the-suicide-squad/1195127883886801/. Accessed 6 Apr. 2023.

"Will Smith Wants To 'Cleanse' The U.S. Of Donald Trump Supporters." HuffPost, 9 Aug. 2016, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/will-smith-shuts-down-islamophobia-and-donald-trump-at-suicide-squad-press-event_n_57aa095fe4b0db3be07bbbaf. Accessed 6 Apr. 2023.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.