African-American “Empire” star Terrence Howard, recently admitted in an interview that he struck his first wife. The big controversy is over whether he hit her with his fist or with an open hand–so what? Quibbling about his mode of physical abuse is inherently offensive. He hit her. Howard also hit second ex-wife Michelle Ghent, who filed a restraining order against him and was photographed with a black eye in 2013. Howard claims this was self-defense.
Okay, let’s accept that.
He hits his wives.
Lee Daniels, who placed his name in front of his film “The Butler”—even Orson Welles wasn’t that much of an egotist—and is “Empire’s” co-creator, came to his star’s defense in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “That poor boy,” Daniels said. “[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.”
The toxic values and warped perception inherent in that comment are staggering. In Daniels’ value system, Howard is a “poor boy” because he is receiving public criticism for admitted domestic abuse. Daniels appears to think the offense is trivial, and sinks to the use multiple rationalizations, like #1. The Golden Rationalization, or “Everybody does it,” #2. The “They’re Just as Bad” Excuse, #32. The Unethical Role Model: “He/She would have done the same thing,” and #39. The Pioneer’s Lament, or “Why should I be the first?” to excuse the inexcusable. In doing so, he also smears Marlon Brando, who is dead and can’t defend himself, and Sean Penn, who isn’t involved in the Howard controversy at all, and who has never been convincingly shown to have committed domestic abuse beyond the level of rumor. Moreover, choosing these two infamous bad boys and wretched role models as a basis for comparison also invokes the worst rationalization of all, #22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”
That’s still not the most repugnant aspect of Daniels’s statement. He plays the race card, implying that Howard is only being criticized because of his color. That Daniels would dare to say this, not to mention think it, pretty much removes any interest I might have had in anything he might write or have to say, ever, about anything. This is signature significance: ethical people don’t say thing like this. He is an ethically addled racialist, who has come to believe that race dictates the removal of accountability for all wrongdoing, and that holding blacks responsible even for crimes they admit doing is necessarily racist and unfair.
His statement “is a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”
Meanwhile, Sean Penn is suing him for slander, to the tune of ten million dollars.