Empire Creator Lee Daniels Says He’s ‘Beyond Embarrassed’ by the Jussie Smollett Scandal

Lee Daniels now says he’s “beyond embarrassed” for supporting former Empire actor Jussie Smollett’s claims that he was the victim of an alleged hate crime, which police later accused him of staging.

Daniels, 59, told Vulture in a new interview, “If it turned out that [Smollett] did it, was guilty, and all of it’s accurate,” then it will feel like a betrayal.

However, he also said “there’s some doubt” about whether Smollett, 36, staged the January attack. “If it were to happen to your son and your child, how would you feel?” he said. “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.”

“We weren’t there,” he continued. “I can’t judge him.”

Last week, Daniels, who created the hip-hop drama, confirmed that Smollett will not return to Empire‘s final season. He said elsewhere in the interview that the Smollett scandal played into Fox’s decision to end the show after season 6.

However, he left the door open to continue Empire in the future. “Empire in its current iteration may be over, but Empire is far from over,” he said.

“We’re trying something out, and if it works, then Empire is over and we have a great spinoff,” he continued. “And if it doesn’t, then Empire may not very well be over. But the intent is to have our last season with a great spinoff.”

Smollett was indicted in March with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report claiming two men attacked him in an alleged homophobic and racist hate crime in Chicago. He pleaded not guilty to allegations that he lied to police, and all charges against him were suddenly dropped at the end of March.

Earlier today, Smollett broke his four-month silence on social media, posting on Instagram for the first time since the day of the incident. He shared a clip supporting Moonlight screenwriter Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s Tony-nominated play Choir Boy.

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