Daniels opened up to Vulture — in a new interview published Tuesday — after he was asked about how Smollett alleged he’d been the victim of a hate crime, a claim Chicago cops later refuted, accusing the “Empire” actor of staging the entire episode to get a pay raise and to drum up publicity for his career. Smollett has maintained his innocence, strongly denying the accusations.
“I’m beyond embarrassed,” the 59-year-old director and producer, who initially publicly supported Smollett, told the outlet. “I think that when it happened, I had a flash of me running from bullies. I had a flash of my whole life, of my childhood, my youth, getting beaten.”
However, Daniels added that there is “some doubt” in his mind that Smollett, 36, made up the alleged attack.
“Of course, there’s some doubt,” he said. “I’m telling you that because I love him so much. That’s the torture that I’m in right now, because it’s literally if it were to happen to your son and your child, how would you feel? 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. It was a flood of pain.”
When further pressed on the alleged hoax, Daniels stated: “We weren’t there. I can’t judge him. That’s only for the f–king lady or man with that black robe and God. I had to detach myself and stop calling him, because it was taking away the time I have for my kids, the time I have for my partner. It was affecting my spirit and other shows, everything.”
Earlier this month, Daniels confirmed that Smollett would not be joining “Empire” for its sixth and final season. Meanwhile, Smollett returned to social media on Monday, sharing his first Instagram post since January when he alleged he’d been the victim of a hate crime.
On January 29, Smollett filed a police report alleging that two masked men attacked him, put a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him. Smollett, who is black and openly gay, claimed the men made racist and homophobic comments and yelled “This is MAGA country,” a pointed reference to President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
After an intense investigation, police said Smollett staged the entire episode. In February, he was arrested for allegedly filing a false police report and faced 16 counts of disorderly conduct stemming from the incident.
However, during a short and stunning hearing on March 26, the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx dropped the charges against Smollett, although his bail was forfeited.