"As a woman, who has been unprotected," Haddish said, "that meant the world to me."

As a comedian, Tiffany Haddish knows a joke can go sideways — but she's still siding with Will Smith for slapping Chris Rock at the Academy Awards over a jab directed at his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.

Speaking exclusively with PEOPLE at the Governor's Ball, Haddish described her highlight of the evening.

"When I saw a Black man stand up for his wife. That meant so much to me. As a woman, who has been unprotected, for someone to say like, 'Keep my wife's name out your mouth, leave my wife alone,' that's what your husband is supposed to do, right? Protect you. And that meant the world to me," Haddish said.

The actress, who co-starred with Pinkett Smith in Girls Trip, continued, "And maybe the world might not like how it went down, but for me, it was the most beautiful thing I ever seen because it made me believe that there are still men out there that love and care about their women, their wives."

2022 Oscars Portrait studio
Tiffany Haddish at the 2022 Oscars
| Credit: Photographs @adrienneraquel

Smith brought the ceremony to a standstill when he strolled up to the stage and slapped Rock after the stand-up made a crack about Pinkett Smith, who's been public about her struggle with alopecia, referring to her as G.I. Jane.

"And that's their friend," Haddish said of Rock. "As a friend, why would you do that? He didn't even run the joke by her, but she was hurt, though. If she wouldn't have been hurt, he probably wouldn't have said nothing. But you could see he was clearly … And they exploited it. They exploited her, so … He protected his wife. To me, I went up to her and said, 'You better suck his d--- from the back, girl!' You better put that in your magazine! That's what I told her."

When he won Best Actor for King Richard later that night, Smith tearfully apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees, but not to Rock. In his at-times rambling speech, Smith defended his actions saying, "Love will make you do crazy things."

In a statement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said it "does not condone violence of any form."

Haddish went on to say that Pinkett Smith appreciated her husband's actions and that Smith is doing "fine."

Additional reporting by Mia McNiece

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