(Photo: Getty Images)

Sean Penn (and his publicity team) try hard to portray Penn as a nice guy, one who really cares about nice-guy things like saving the whales and lifting the people of Haiti out of poverty. But there’s another aspect of Penn’s personality that he and his team are less jazzed about publicizing: Namely, that he’s been accused of some pretty sadistic acts of domestic violence in the past. His marriage to Madonna was reportedly very abusive, and he was charged with felony domestic assault in 1988, although he pleaded to a misdemeanor and avoided jail time. He did go to jail for 33 days for assaulting a photographer in 1987, though, and was charged again after a similar incident in 2010.

But through the magic of PR, Penn has managed to make his violent past a mere footnote. And he’d like to keep it that way: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Penn is suing Empire creator Lee Daniels for $10 million. The charge? Defamation of character, after Daniels compared Penn to known wife beater (and Empire star) Terrence Howard in a recent interview. “[Terrence] ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some fucking demon,” Daniels said in the interview—also with THR—referring to a recent lawsuit filed against Howard by his ex-wife, Michelle Ghent, alleging that he nearly beat her to death in 2013. “That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”

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Putting…that aside, Penn’s lawsuit says that Penn, “one of this generation’s most highly-acclaimed and greatest artists and humanitarians,” “has for years been the subject of scandalous, scurrilous, and baseless attacks” due to his fame. “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,” it says, adding that, in Sean Penn’s humble opinion, this was all a stunt to raise Empire’s profile on the eve of the Emmys. And in contrast to Howard, who has publicly admitted to abusing women, “while he 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.”

See? He’s just trying to stand up for himself. Like when Madonna dropped the charges she filed against him, making it impossible for him to get convicted of them. And he’s only been arrested for attempted murder, not domestic violence. And that was in Macau, so it barely counts. Get it straight, guys.

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