Sean Penn has filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against Lee Daniels alleging that the Empire co-creator falsely accused him of domestic violence by comparing him to fellow actor Terrence Howard.
Howard recently admitted to hitting his first wife in a controversial Rolling Stone interview, and Daniels defended the Empire star in a subsequent Hollywood Reporter profile. Howard “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.”
In a complaint filed Tuesday in New York Supreme Court, Penn and his lawyers claim that “in purporting to ‘defend’ the ongoing legal and related troubles of [Howard] — who has reportedly, and publicly, admitted to physically abusing at least one woman and reportedly been arrested approximately five times for violent acts against women — Daniels has falsely asserted and/or implied that Penn is guilty of ongoing, continuous violence against women.”
According to the lawsuit, Daniels’ comments were “apparently part of a misguided campaign to profit and further bolster and brand his show Empire.” The lawsuit also says that while Penn “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.”
In a statement to People, Penn’s attorney Mathew Rosengart said, “As asserted in the lawsuit, there is also a critical issue at stake here, which is the malicious and reckless repetition of rumors and innuendo at the expense of others. Sean has been subjected to false, baseless and reckless attacks for years, and this is only the most recent example.”
A representative for Daniels did not immediately provide comment on the lawsuit.