New York — Empire co-creator Lee Daniels apologised to Sean Penn in a statement made public on Wednesday as part of a confidential settlement in a defamation lawsuit over comments Daniels made comparing the actor to the show's star Terrence Howard, who's been repeatedly accused of domestic violence.
As part of the settlement, Daniels also agreed to make a donation to Penn's charity, J/P Haitian Relief Organisation, which the actor created after Haiti was devastated by an earthquake in 2010. The sum was not disclosed.
"I am so sorry that I have hurt you Sean," Daniels said. "Domestic violence is a very serious issue. 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 colour in our national conversation."
Penn said he accepted Daniels' "heartfelt" apology and appreciated "the sincerity with which it was delivered".
He had sued in Manhattan civil court last fall, saying Daniels' statements were egregious and injured Penn's credibility and reputation personally and professionally and in his philanthropic activities. He had sought $10m, though a jury would have to determine any damages.
Daniels' comments came during an interview with the entertainment publication The Hollywood Reporter about the second season of Empire.
"That poor boy (Terrence) ain't done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he's some ... demon," Daniels said then. "That's a sign of time, of race, of where we are right now in America."
Penn had been accused of violent behaviour before but denied decades-old allegations that he was abusive to ex-wife Madonna when they were married in the 1980s. Madonna supported Penn in the lawsuit, filing a sworn statement in December that Penn had never been physically abusive toward her and that "any report to the contrary is completely outrageous, malicious, reckless, and false".
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