Lee Daniels opened up about Jussie Smollett in a new interview expressing his embarrassment for defending the Empire star after he was attacked in Chicago in January only to be accused of orchestrating the incident.
“I’m beyond embarrassed,” Daniels told Vulture when asked of how he felt about rushing to Smollett’s defense. “I think that when it happened, I had a flash of me running from bullies. I had a flash of my whole life, of my childhood, my youth, getting beaten.”
Still, Daniels doesn’t exactly believe that Smollett planned the attack as he has been accused of doing by Chicago Police. The 36-year-old actor initially faced felony disorderly conduct charges stemming from the incident.
Charges against Smollett have since been dropped but Daniels admitted that it would feel like a huge betrayal, “If it turned out that he did it, was guilty, and all of it’s accurate.”
“Of course, there’s some doubt,” Daniels continued. “I’m telling you that because I love him so much. That’s the torture that I’m in right now, because it’s literally if it were to happen to your son and your child, how would you feel? You would feel, Please, God, please let there be that glimmer of hope that there is some truth in this story. That’s why it’s been so painful. It was a flood of pain.”
The Empire creator said that he bypassed all of the Chicago Tribune’s detailed reporting on the incident because he was busy “putting out fires,” and maintains that no one knows the real truth.
“We weren’t there. I can’t judge him. That’s only for the f**king lady or man with that black robe and God. I had to detach myself and stop calling [Smollett], because it was taking away the time I have for my kids, the time I have for my partner. It was affecting my spirit and other shows, everything.”
Despite being unsure if Smollett had anything to do with the assault Daniels pointed out that, “If he didn’t do it, he’d be Martin Luther King right now. He’d be some sort of god.”
Daniels went on to confirm that the attention from the Smollett incident played a “major part” in Fox’s decision to cancel Empire after the upcoming sixth season. Elsewhere in the interview, Daniels talked about wrapping up Empire’s final season, and refused to comment when asked if Terrence Howard should have been booted off the show due to previous accusations of domestic violence.
Click here for the full interview