Sean Penn Is Suing 'Empire' Creator Lee Daniels for $10 Million

Daniels compared Terrence Howard's abuse allegations to Penn's own history of domestic violence.

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Complex Original

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After a super successful first season Empire is back on Fox tomorrow night. Created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, the soap follows a hip hop mogul (played by Terrence Howard) who is diagnosed with ALS and must decide which of his three sons should take over his company. In the newest issue of The Hollywood Reporter we sees some of the show’s drama pour over into real life.  

Howard’s character, Lucius Lyon, is a ruthless opportunist who beats his children and abuses his wife. Ironically enough, Howard has faced accusation after accusation of domestic violence—ex-wives, an ex-girlfriend, and even a Continental Airlines stewardess have come forward with their own stories.

In light of the crossovers between his personal life and onscreen persona, Howard has stayed relatively quiet, but Daniels spoke out about the racism he believes is behind all the public attention Howard’s situation is receiving. He told THR: "[Terrence] ain't done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he's some fuckin' demon. That's a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America."

Daniels’ Penn dig is in reference to the actor’s marriage to Madonna. In the late '80s Penn was accused of hitting Madonna with a baseball bat, although she didn’t press charges for that assault. He was eventually charged with felony domestic assault, later reduced to a misdemeanor, for allegedly beating the singer and tying her to a chair for nine hours.

Despite all of this being public knowledge, it was announced earlier today that Penn has filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against Daniels. The case is still in its preliminary stages, but former federal prosecutor Mathew Rosengart directed THR to the first paragraph of Penn’s complaint:

"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."

Although we doubt Daniels would condone domestic violence in any sort of situation, he does bring up a significant point in the way these issues are covered. These days most of the press surrounding Penn focuses on his charitable deeds, ignoring his despicable record. Can the same be said for Howard?

Regardless of how the suit turns out, both actors have disgusting track records and remain relatively immune to punishment. Moreover, Hollywood continues to be a haven for domestic violence.

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