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‘Empire’ co-creator Lee Daniels ‘beyond embarrassed’ he initially supported Jussie Smollett

2019-06-13

Writer, director and producer Lee Daniels (Monica Schipper/Getty Images)

For Lee Daniels, co-creator and executive producer of the hit “Empire,” it was not embarrassment at star Jussie Smollett’s allegedly fabricated hate crime attack that got him so much as the sense of betrayal.

“I’m beyond embarrassed,” Daniels told New York magazine’s Vulture in a recent interview. He implied that he was triggered by Smollett’s account of being berated with racist and homophobic slurs in January by two attackers who also put a rope around his neck and beat him in Chicago.

Actor Jussie Smollett
Actor Jussie Smollett (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

“I think that when it happened, I had a flash of me running from bullies,” Daniels said. “I had a flash of my whole life, of my childhood, my youth, getting beaten.”

Daniels said betrayal would be a whole other type of pain.

“If it turned out that he did it, was guilty, and all of it’s accurate,” he said, he would feel betrayed. But he seemed loath to give up on his longtime friend.

“Of course, there’s some doubt,” Daniels said. “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.”

Daniels has confirmed he will not appear in “Empire’s” sixth and final season.

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Charges dropped against Jussie Smollett

Smollett continues to allege he was attacked. Though he was charged with faking a hate crime attack, those charges were dropped the following month.