Sean Penn has filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against Empire creator Lee Daniels. He filed the complaint Tuesday in New York Supreme Court.
The 55-year-old actor claims that Daniels used “false and defamatory” language to say that Penn had abused women, CBS reports. The lawsuit states that Daniels compared Penn to Empire star Terrence Howard, who acknowledged he “smacked” his ex-wife and has been hit with many accusations of domestic violence, the New York Times reports. According to E!, Howard has also been arrested nearly five times for being violent toward women.
Daniels was in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter about Howard when the comments were made. “[Terrence] ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some f–in’ demon,” he said when speaking of Howard’s recent legal problems. “That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”
In the complaint, Penn claims he will “no longer tolerate” allegations of past domestic violence, according to USA Today. THR reports that the first paragraph reads as follows: “As a result of Penn’s status as a public figure, he has for years been the subject of scandalous, scurrilous, and baseless attacks. But Penn, like any citizen, has a right to defend himself and will no longer tolerate the reckless and malicious behavior of others, who seek to aggrandize themselves or their projects at his expense. Accordingly, and because of Daniels’ defamatory statements, Penn brings this action for monetary relief, and to deter Daniels and others from their defamatory actions.”
Additionally, the complaint says that “Daniels falsely equates Penn with Howard.” Also, it says that Howard has publicly admitted to physically abusing women and Daniels “seems to condone Howard’s reported misconduct,” whereas Penn has never been convicted or arrested for domestic violence, “as his ex-wives (including Madonna) would confirm and attest.”
Penn’s lawyer states that Penn has wrongly been a target of “baseless attacks” and rumors. It looks like Penn feels the same way and he won’t settle for less than $10 million. Neither Penn’s publicist nor representatives for Daniels had any further comments.
The lawsuit was filed just one day before Empire returns for its second season on Fox.