Empire creator Lee Daniels will be making a deep pocket donation to a charity for Sean Penn as the Oscar winner pulls the plug on his $10 million defamation lawsuit against the Oscar nominee. No details of the size of the donation to Haitian relief were made public.
“I am so sorry that I have hurt you, Sean, and I apologize and retract my reckless statements about you,” Daniels said today in an apology that accompanies the donation and ends the nearly 9-month war of words and writs between the two. “How thoughtless of me. You are someone I consider a friend, a brilliant actor and true Hollywood legend and humanitarian.”
“I accept Lee’s heartfelt apology and appreciate the sincerity with which it was delivered,” said Penn Wednesday in a statement of his own. “I also accept and appreciate his generous donation to J/P HRO, which will have a transformative effect on the lives of those we serve in Haiti.”
The initial filing from Penn last September came not long after The Butler director in a Hollywood Reporter interview seemingly equated a double standard based on race out of the media response Empire star Terrence Howard had received from past run-ins with law and domestic violence accusations. Specifically, Daniels was nodding towards Penn’s behavior back in the 1980s, when the El Chapo interviewer was married to Madonna. He “ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some f*ckin’ demon,” Daniels said of Howard. “That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”
Today, Daniels addressed that matter directly.
“I too have been the subject of false attacks by others, like those made here,” the Empire co-creator said. My most important role is as a father, and it is important to me that my children learn that it is wrong to reference gossip as fact, as I did here. That can be very damaging and hurtful.
“Domestic violence is a very serious issue,” Daniels added. “My comments were cavalier; it was not my intention to diminish the severity of the issue, but rather to express a view regarding the disparate treatment of men of color in our national conversation. I apologize again for the distress that this has caused you and your family.”
In early December last year, after some wrangling over jurisdiction, Daniels tried to get the initial complaint from Penn tossed. At the time, Daniels also claimed then his comments were protected by the First Amendment. No way, replied Penn in his first amended complaint of December 17 – to which a short declaration of support from his ex-wife Madonna was attached.
“As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously observed almost 100 years ago, the First Amendment is not absolute,” said Penn in an amended complaint filed by his attorney Mathew Rosengart of L.A.’s Greenberg Traurig. “Just as it does not protect a person from ‘shouting fire in a crowded theatre,’ it also does not protect defamatory conduct.” In her attached declaration, Madonna noted she was “aware” of reports of Penn assaulting and abusing her and called them “completely outrageous, malicious, reckless, and false.
“Penn is incapable of establishing that Daniels uttered his opinion with knowledge of probable falsity, as the Challenged Statement is pre-dated by decades of spine-chilling accounts of Penn’s alleged violent abuse of his ex-wife Madonna,” claimed the February 2 filing. To further the point of the inclusion of the Material Girl backing her ex after years of rumors about abusive behavior by Penn in the relationship, Daniels’ filing asked “why neither Penn nor Madonna cried defamation and sued any of these prior publications.”
Well, now we know someone cried “uncle” and that was that.