Lee Daniels has officially replied to Sean Penn’s $10 million defamation lawsuit -- which alleges that the Empire co-creator made "false and defamatory statements" about the 55-year-old actor -- asking that the case be moved to a federal court.
The lawsuit stems from comments that Daniels made in a September interview with The Hollywood Reporter, in which he compared Penn to embattled Empire star Terrence Howard, who has a history of domestic abuse allegations and admitted to hitting his first wife in an interview with Rolling Stone last month.
"That poor boy," Daniels said of Howard to THR. "[Terrence] ain't done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he's some f***in' demon... That's a sign of the times, of race, of where we are right now in America."
In response, the initial lawsuit read: "Daniels has falsely asserted and/or implied that Penn is guilty of ongoing, continuous violence against women." The doc went on to state: "...while [Penn] 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."
"Sean Penn has been subjected to false and baseless attacks for years, and this is only the most recent example," Penn's lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, told ET in a statement in September. "As asserted in the lawsuit, there are important issues at stake, including the malicious and reckless repetition of rumors and innuendo at the expense of others."
Daniels, 55, has kept mum on the lawsuit for his part so far, only responding via his lawyers with a notice of removal obtained by ET -- requesting to move the case from the State Supreme Court of New York to a federal district court. The request is due to the fact that Daniels lives in New York and Penn lives in California, and the amount of the lawsuit -- Penn is seeking $10 million in damages -- qualifies the case to be heard in a federal court.
ET has reached out to Daniels’ reps for comment. Penn’s lawyer had no comment.