The lawsuit came after Lee Daniels' recent comments about Terrence Howard indirectly linked Penn to domestic violence, the Oscar winner's rep confirms to Us Weekly.
Sean Penn's attorney, Matthew Rosengart, said:
"As asserted in the lawsuit, there is also a critical issue at stake here. Which is the malicious and reckless repetition of rumors and innuendo at the expense of others. Sean has been subjected to false, baseless, and reckless attacks for years, and this is only the most recent example."
Daniels, 55, recently defended Howard, 46, and his legal woes in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "[Terrence] ain't done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he's some fuckin' demon. That's a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America."
On Tuesday, Sept. 22, Penn, 55, filed his lawsuit in New York Supreme Court, claiming that Daniels' comments falsely linked him to hitting women.
In the 10-page complaint released to Us, Penn is described as "one of this generation's most highly-acclaimed and greatest artists and humanitarians."
"As a result of Penn's status as a public figure, he has for years been the subject of scandalous, scurrilous, and baseless attacks. But Penn, like any citizen, has a right to defend himself and will no longer tolerate the reckless and malicious behavior of others, who seek to aggrandize themselves or their projects at his expense. Accordingly, and because of Daniels' defamatory statements, Penn brings this action for monetary relief, and to deter Daniels and others from their defamatory actions."
The legal complaint also cites Howard's admission to physically abusing women or treating them with violence. "Daniels has falsely asserted and/or implied that Penn is guilty of ongoing, continuous violence against women," it reads.
The suit calls Daniels' statements "egregious," saying the Oscar-nominated director behind The Butler and Precious "seems to condone Howard's reported misconduct." Penn's lawsuit also claims that Daniels' defense of Howard "is apparently part of a misguided campaign to profit and further bolster and brand his show Empire."
Most unsettling to Penn, however, was that Daniels supposedly "falsely equates Penn with Howard." The suit reads: "Penn (unlike Howard) has never been arrested, much less convicted, for domestic violence, as his ex-wives (including Madonna) would confirm and attest."
Daniels' rep had no comment as of Tuesday