Lee Daniels, the co-creator and executive producer of Empire, has said he’s “beyond embarrassed” for backing actor Jussie Smollett after he said he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in January. “I’m beyond embarrassed,” the Oscar-nominated director said in an interview with Vulture. “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 had said in an Instagram video shortly after news of the alleged attack broke that it was “just another f*cking day in America.” He later deleted the video.
Prosecutors in Chicago charged Smollett with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report over an attack they said the actor himself orchestrated. The state’s attorney’s office later dropped the charges, however. Daniels told Vulture he still has “some doubt” that Smollett would stage the incident. “Of course, there’s some doubt,” he 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.”