In a candid admission, “Empire” co-creator Lee Daniels is admitting he’s red-faced about throwing his support behind Jussie Smollett.
The actor made national headlines earlier this year when he claimed to be the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. At the time, he said two masked men approached him outside of his residence in Chicago early on Jan. 29 and doused him in an unknown substance, tied a noose around his neck and shouted, “This is MAGA country!”
However, as more details emerged, Chicago authorities said he falsely reported the crime and charged him with 16 felony counts related to the claim. By March, the charges had been dropped.
During an interview with Vulture, Daniels addressed initially backing Smollett. At the time, he said in an Instagram video, “You didn’t deserve … to have a noose put around your neck, to have bleach thrown on you, to be called ‘die f—ing n—-r’ or whatever they said to you.”
Now he admits, “I’m beyond embarrassed. 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.”
Daniels went on to say the incident came out of the blue and noted he still has some doubt about whether or not Smollett was actually being dishonest. Meanwhile, the star’s felony charges being dropped don’t indicate he is necessarily free of guilt.
“Of course, there’s some doubt. I’m telling you that because I love him so much,” said Daniels, whose show “Empire” has been renewed for a sixth and final season that will not include Smollett. “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.”
Asked about what it would look like had Smollett, who played Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox drama, been truthful, Daniels indicated that’s not something he can speak on.
“We weren’t there. I can’t judge him,” he said. “That’s only for the f—ing lady or man with that black robe and God. I had to detach myself and stop calling him, 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.”