Lee Daniels Settles Sean Penn Defamation Suit, Writes Apology Letter: 'I Am So Sorry I Have Hurt You Sean'

Lee Daniels apologized to Sean Penn on Wednesday, after the two settled a $10 million defamation lawsuit

Photo: Dan Steinberg/AP; Rich Fury/Invision/AP

Sean Penn has settled his defamation lawsuit against Lee Daniels, who wrote a public letter of apology to the actor after accusing him of hitting women last year.

“I am so sorry that I have hurt you, Sean, and I apologize and retract my reckless statements about you. How thoughtless of me. You are someone I consider a friend, a brilliant actor and true Hollywood legend and humanitarian,” Daniels wrote in a joint statement with Penn obtained by PEOPLE.

Along with the apology, Daniels made a donation to Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization.

Penn filed the complaint against Daniels last September after the Empire co-creator compared the actor to his show’s star Terrence Howard, who admitted to hitting his first wife. “That poor boy,” Daniels said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “[Terrence] ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some f—— demon. That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”

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Penn took issue with Daniels’ comments, filing a $10 million defamation suit which states that “Daniels falsely equat[ed] Penn with Howard. Even though, while he has certainly had several brushes with the law, Penn (unlike Howard) has never been arrested, much less convicted, for domestic violence, as his ex-wives (including Madonna) would confirm and attest.”

Madonna later did just that, filing an affidavit obtained by PEOPLE last December stating that, “While we certainly had more than one heated argument during our marriage, Sean has never struck me, ‘tied me up,’ or physically assaulted me, and any report to the contrary is completely outrageous, malicious, reckless and false.”

In his apology letter, Daniels added, “I too have been the subject of false attacks by others, like those made here. My most important role is as a father, and it is important to me that my children learn that it is wrong to reference gossip as fact, as I did here. That can be very damaging and hurtful.

“Domestic violence is a very serious issue. My comments were cavalier; it was not my intention to diminish the severity of the issue, but rather to express a view regarding the disparate treatment of men of color in our national conversation. I apologize again for the distress that this has caused you and your family. My very best, Lee Daniels.”

In their joint statement, Penn responded, “I accept Lee’s heartfelt apology and appreciate the sincerity with which it was delivered. I also accept and appreciate his generous donation to J/P HRO, which will have a transformative effect on the lives of those we serve in Haiti.”

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