Lee Daniels, the openly gay co-creator of the TV blockbuster Empire, is denying ‘any and all liability’ in a defamation lawsuit filed against him by actor Sean Penn.
Daniels is being sued by Penn for $10 million for allegedly implying that the two-time Oscar winner has hit women.
Penn’s lawsuit stems from comments Daniels made in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter in which he condemned the public persona of Empire star Terrence Howard who has been plagued with divorce drama and allegations of domestic abuse.
Terrence ‘ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some f***-in demon,’ Daniels said. ‘That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.’
Penn’s lawsuit states: ‘Daniels falsely equates Penn with Howard, even though, while he has certainly had several brushes with the law, Penn (unlike Howard) has never been arrested, much less convicted, for domestic violence, as his ex-wives (including Madonna) would confirm and attest.’
The lawsuit was filed last month in state court in New York the day before the season two premiere of Empire. Daniel’s attorneys are asking that the case be moved to a federal court in New York.
In making the request, attorneys for Daniels state that their client ‘denies any and all liability to Penn.’
Penn won best actor Oscars for Milk and Mystic River and has been divorced from Madonna and Robin Wright and was most recently in a relationship with Charlize Theron.
Penn’s lawsuit states that he took legal action because he ‘will no longer tolerate the reckless and malicious behavior of others, who seek to aggrandize themselves or their projects at his expense.’