The lawsuit was filed in New York Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The comment came in an interview Daniels gave to The Hollywood Reporter, in which he compared legal troubles faced by “Empire” star Terrence Howard to those faced by other actors.
Daniels said that Howard “ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of the sudden he’s some f—in’ demon. That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”
The lawsuit states that “in purporting to ‘defend’ the ongoing legal and related troubles of actor Terrence Howard … who has reportedly, and publicly, admitted to physically abusing at least one woman and reportedly been arrested approximately five times for violent acts against women — Daniels has falsely asserted and/or implied that Penn is guilty of ongoing, continuous violence against women. Nor has Penn admitted to ‘slap[ping]’ a woman or abusing others (as Howard has also reportedly admitted, reportedly asserting that he was acting in self-defense).”
The complaint includes a citation to a 2001 Whitemarsh Police Department report from a domestic disturbance, quoting Howard as admitting to an officer that he “broke the door down and hit my wife.”
Penn’s lawsuit says that Daniels’ statements were “egregious” on several levels, including that “in his purported ‘defense’ of Howard, Daniels not only appears to acknowledge Howard’s guilt, he also seems to condone Howard’s reported misconduct.”
The complaint also accuses Daniels of invoking “two of the greatest actors and humanitarians of our time” as part of a “misguided campaign to profit and further bolster and brand his show.”
It notes that even though Penn has had 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.”
The complaint says that Daniels’ “false and defamatory” statements have “caused Penn great anguish and emotional distress and have exposed him to pre-judgments and false judgments,” injuring his credibility and reputation.
Penn is represented by Mathew Rosengart of Greenberg Traurig.
A spokeswoman for Daniels did not immediately returns a request for comment.
News of the lawsuit was first reported in The Hollywood Reporter.