Empire co-creator and executive producer Lee Daniels is finally speaking out about his feelings regarding the Jussie Smollett “hate crime” scandal.
As you know, Smollett alleged he’d been the victim of a hate crime, a claim Chicago cops later refuted, accusing the “Empire” actor of staging the entire episode to get a pay raise and to drum up publicity for his career.
While Smollett has maintained his innocence and strongly denied the accusations, Daniels says he feels some kinda way about jumping on the Smollett bandwagon so quickly.
Daniels opened up to Vulture in a candid interview published yesterday (June 11).
On January 29, Smollett filed a police report alleging that two masked men attacked him, put a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him. Smollett, who is black and openly gay, claimed the men made racist and homophobic comments and yelled “This is MAGA country,” a pointed reference to President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
After an intense investigation, police said Smollett staged the entire episode.
As previously reported, Daniels was the first to publicly support Smollett. On day of the supposed attack, Daniels posted and deleted a photo of a screenshot from a facetime call with the Empire star.
He also shared an emotion Instagram video, stating, “You didn’t deserve … to have a noose put around your neck, to have bleach thrown on you, to be called ‘die fucking nigger’ or whatever they said to you.”
Since that time, reporting has emerged that suggests that Jussie Smollett fake the entire ordeal in order to boost his image and to also get paid more on Empire.
When asked about his public statements, Daniels admits he’s got egg on his face, stating:
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.
Of course, there’s some doubt. 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.
When further pressed on the alleged hoax, Daniels states that while he’s not standing in judgment of his former “son,” he had to emotionally regroup and walk away from the Jussie drama because it had become too personal.
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 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.
On a related note, just a few weeks ago Daniels confirmed that Smollett would NOT be joining “Empire” for its sixth and final season.