Sean Penn Files Defamation Suit Against 'Empire' Co-Creator

The Hollywood actor claims Lee Daniels defamed him during an interview by comparing him to Terrance Howard, one of the show's stars. Howard recently admitted hitting his first wife.
4:23 | 09/23/15

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Transcript for Sean Penn Files Defamation Suit Against 'Empire' Co-Creator
expelled. Also right now, the with a $10 million lawsuit claiming he defamed him during an interview by comparing him to the star of that show, Terrence Howard, who recently admitted to hitting his first wife. ABC's David Wright is here with that story for us. Good morning, David. Reporter: Good morning, robin. This began as a story about race and reputation, not on the campaign trail, but in Hollywood. "Empire" is one of the biggest hits on TV right now and the show's creator is under fire for defending his lead actor by throwing Sean Penn under the bus. Mr. Daniels, what -- Reporter: This morning "empire"'s creator lee Daniels faces a $10 million lawsuit for comparing his lead actor -- You hear me out because your life could depend on. Reporter: -- Terrence Howard who plays Lucious lion. Are you going to leave on your own. Reporter: To other leading men who had brushes with the law. Howard admitted to slapping his first wife and Daniels was making the case that he's been unfairly demonized for it because he's black. Howard was snubbed at the Emmy awards last weekend. Daniels told "The Hollywood reporter." Howard has done nothing different from Marlon brando or Sean Penn and all of a sudden he's become some demon. That's a sign of the time, he said, of race and where we are in America right now. Actor Sean Penn immediately sl slapped Daniels with a defamation suit. Damentss has falsely asserted and/or Penn is guilty of continuing violence against women, the suit says claiming Daniels' statement damaging Penn's standing as an actor and humanitarian. During his simultaneous four-year marriage to Madonna, there were unconfirmed reports of domestic violence. Penn categorically denies them saying he has never been charged or arrested for domestic violence. 30 years later Madonna and Penn are now on friendly enough terms, Penn seen watching admiringly from the front row of Madonna's recent concert at Madison square garden and as she told the crowd in Brooklyn days later he even sent her a note afterwards. He was at my show 30 years early earlier, and he was very upset with me for wearing a costume that was too revealing. After the show he wrote me a letter and he said he finally had my heart. Whatever may have happened between the two 30 years ago, the point that Daniels was making black actors are often held to a different standard. Well, Sean Penn may disagree, surely this is a sore subject for him. Robin. Thank you. For more we turn to ABC's legal analyst Dan Abrams. We've heard in David's report Sean Penn says he's never been charged, never been accused, convicted or anything when it comes to domestic violence. But is this a law -- a very difficult lawsuit for him. This is the kind of case where Sean Penn probably got really angry, reads this, calls his lawyer and says, I want to sue this guy. I'm going to sue him for saying this and it's one of those cases where his lawyer should have said to gift, hoverboards about Tito H stores battle isng and, Michael, yeou'r hovering a little close everybody home going, has but, ,no it's .me iat thsright. Modern day reality B theut isre a war over who can sell those hoverboards and will it affect your holiday shopping? We'll find out in our "Speed feed." Something tells me you'll be on one of those this morn ING. Anything is sspo. Ible Now in thisour to os rca Winne spern nnea slamming "eire"mp creator lee Dan is false. Penn's team is going to say, it's simply not true that I have had anything like his situation. But you got to believe this is the kind of case where they're going to try to resolve it. I can't imagine Sean Penn wants to discovery, wants to go back and go through everything again and you would think that an apology from lee Daniels will probably settle something like this but we'll see. We'll have to see but you think they'll get this settled before. I would think so. I would think neither of them want this lawsuit. All right. Thank you, Dan.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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