*On Thursday, Sean Penn filed an amended complaint in his defamation lawsuit against “Empire” co-creator Lee Daniels. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the court documents now come with a sworn statement from his ex-wife Madonna that the actor never struck her during their relationship in the 1980s.
In a September interview with THR, Daniels tried to defend “Empire” star Terrence Howard over his domestic violence allegations. “[Terrence] ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some f—in’ demon,” Daniels told THR. “That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”
For this quote, Penn brought a $10 million lawsuit, alleging Daniels falsely accused him of hitting women by comparing him to Howard.
Daniels raised a First Amendment defense in an effort to get the lawsuit tossed.
Madonna’s volatile marriage to Penn lasted from 1985 to 1989. In her declaration, the pop icon addresses two incidents that frequently come up in the media — one in 1987, another in 1989 — and denies she was struck by a baseball bat, tied up or physically assaulted. From her declaration:
Daniels is defending himself by arguing that what he said in his interview doesn’t rise to defamatory meaning. Daniels said that Penn’s lawsuit “attempts to silence Daniels’ honestly held opinion, a contribution to the marketplace of ideas voiced during the nation’s agonizing debate about racial disparity and domestic violence. The First Amendment abhors attempts to chill speech on hot topics.”
“Unfortunately for Daniels, his statements — which by direct reference to Howard’s misconduct, falsely accuse Penn of committing serious, multiple crimes against women — are not protected by the First Amendment,” Penn’s attorney Mathew Rosengart states in the amended complaint. “As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously observed almost 100 years ago, the First Amendment is not absolute. Just as it does not protect a person from ‘shouting fire in a crowded theater,’ it also does not protect defamatory conduct.”