Lee Daniels is "beyond embarrassed" by his public support of Jussie Smollett.
The 'Empire' creator was one of the biggest supporters of the 36-year-old actor when news broke he'd been the victim of a homophobic and racist attack in Chicago in January but after his friend was accused of faking the attack for publicity in order to get a pay rise on the musical drama, the showrunner admitted he regrets his staunch and vocal backing of the star.
He said: "I'm beyond embarrassed. 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."
And though Lee "loves" Jussie "so much", he admitted he does have some doubts that his account of the attack was true.
He told Vulture: "Of course, there's some doubt. 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."
And the director admitted he stepped back and "stopped calling" Jussie - who has denied the attack was a hoax - in the wake of the scandal because it was having too much of an impact on his own life.
He said: "We weren't there. I can't judge him. That's only for the f**ing 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."
But Lee thinks the actor deserves "kudos" for becoming a household name as a result of the mystery.
After having it pointed out that people have gone from never having heard of Jussie to him becoming hugely famous, he replied: "What do you make of that? Think about it. If he didn't do it, he'd be Martin Luther King right now. He'd be some sort of god... Yeah. Kudos. Yeah."
It was recently announced the upcoming sixth season of 'Empire' will be the last but Jussie will not be returning as Jamal Lyon.