Lee Daniels was the first to rush to Instagram to defend Jussie Smollett after he heard the news, like the rest of us, that the actor was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack.
Now that the consensus is that Jussie lied about the whole thing, Lee is admitting that he regrets rushing to defend him.
“I’m beyond embarrassed,” he said. “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.”
In the interview published online Tuesday, the Oscar-nominated director said Smollett is like a son, and he still has “some doubt” that the actor would stage an attack.
“Of course, there’s some doubt,” Daniels stated. “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 day of the attack, Smollett told police he was walking down a Chicago street in the dark, when two unknown offenders approached him and began yelling racial and homophobic slurs. The actor said the suspects beat him, wrapped a rope around his neck and said “this is MAGA country.”
Vulture reminded Daniels that Chicago police and the city’s local media alleged Smollett hired two friends to attack him, in hopes of getting a salary increase on Empire, leaving little doubt that the incident was a “hoax.”
“We weren’t there. I can’t judge him,” Daniels responded. “That’s only for the f*cking 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.”
Cook County prosecutors charged Smollett with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. The actor maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty. In a surprise move on March 26, the state’s attorney’s office dropped the charges.
The city is now suing him in civil court to recover more than $130,000 it claims to have spent on police overtime hours investigating the case.
Asked if he followed the breathless coverage in the Chicago Tribune, Daniels said there was no time.
“I didn’t read any of it,” he said. “I was too busy putting out fires.”
One of those fires was Jussie’s future with ‘Empire.’ Just last week, Lee confirmed that Jussie will NOT be returning.