‘The Butler’ Director Lee Daniels Offends Black Women with Recent ‘Welfare’ Comments, Responds to Backlash

Photo Credit: Larry King/Hulu/YouTube
Photo Credit: Larry King/Hulu/YouTube

By: Amanda Anderson-Niles

Lee Daniels has struck gold yet again with another hit film. “The Butler” topped the box office last weekend in its first take, and it’s even generating plenty of buzz suggesting the film could rack up some Oscar Awards. Daniels isn’t a stranger to this kind of success considering he did also direct “Precious,” and that film gave comedian Mo’Nique her very first Academy Award. So things are looking pretty sweet for the movie producer and director, but he’s still managed to find himself the target of criticism not because of his new movie, but because of some recent comments he made about black women and welfare.

In a recent interview with Larry King, Daniels (who is an openly gay black man) addressed the issues many black men face that could hinder them from coming out of the closet. In the process, he made a remark about black women and welfare that is causing some backlash. He says:

“I think they (black gay men) are prejudiced upon even from the African Americans too. I think that the reason we have AIDS…I did a movie called ‘Precious’ and when I was doing the research for ‘Precious,’ I walked into the gay mens health crisis center in New York City and I expected to see studying [of] AIDS and HIV, I expected to see a room full of gay men, but there are nothing but women that are there – black women with kids, I thought I had walked into the welfare office – but they service black women with AIDS, why?… Because black men can’t come out. Why? Because you simply can’t do it. Your family says it, your church says it, your teachers say it, your parents say it, your friends say it, your work says it. And so you’re living on this DL thing and you’re infecting black women.”



The comments have outraged plenty of black women, when asked about the backlash surrounding his comments, he tells HuffPost Live about his love for black women:


“To be a gay man, I’m obsessed with and I’m in love with black women. They are everything to me. From my mother, to my grandmother, my sisters…they are me because they embraced me when black men didn’t embrace me. So I fall to the floor for every black woman.

“I wish I were straight because I love women so much. I love black women. They are the the reason that I’m here today because I was rarely accepted by any African American men growing up inclusive of my dad.”


What do you think about Lee Daniels’ comments? Speak on it below.


  1. Really?! What is it like a requirement now for successful black men to trash black women in the media? Enough already.

  2. It’s really times for black women to think really long and hard about who we are going to support. I’m talking about movies, music, politics, everything! We can’t keep giving these men money to turn around and tear us down in the media. He was out of line here and this “I love black women” crap he said after the fact doesn’t fix it.

    1. I agree 100%. I have a question for Black women….What are we going to do as a whole to stop the disrespect we suffer from our own race?

      1. We have to start boycotting people and holding those who show disrespect accountable. I think over time it will be effective. With social media, it’s even easier to send a message.

  3. I’ve been telling people since Precious to stop supporting this self hating bastard. Now eyes are awaken when they should have wide open after he had Precious’ obese a-s stealing Fried Chicken on the big screen. Time to wake up people.

    1. Thank you. But shout to the group of black women on here still defending him and refusing to see the obvious because they love his movies too much to see the damn truth. Ugh!

  4. I can’t believe he said that. What is really going on with famous black men? Where’s all the hatred and animosity for black women coming from? Hell we birth your ungrateful a-sses. Show some respect.

  5. I never understood why people hyped him up so much anyway. You can tell through his work he’s not for the advancement of black people. He’s selling us out to get Oscars.

  6. His is comment was wrong but, I don’t think he’s self-hating.. Are all of yous living in the suburbs with college degrees, children created in wedlock, husbands, good paying job, car, savings account, debt free?

    If you are, I am very happy and proud of you. Lets do remember, in the inner city’s in every state there are welfare offices crowded with black women with their fatherless babies, obese females, drug dealers, robbers, thieves, people living in the projects, hoes, pimps, etc etc etc.

    We are so selfish, we show poverty and you ask for the successful black people . If they show the successful people you will say why not shed light on the poor, what’s really happening?.

    It’s like a lose lose type of situation

    1. Actually white people make up the majority of welfare recipients. Over 85% of crimes committed against white people are by other white people as well. These are facts you will never read about.

      Black drug dealers get their drugs aka “products” from powerful white men who wear suits. These men in suits are often the ones who finance political campaigns. But that’s another conversation for another day. My point is a lot of what you see in the media about black people are lies and half truths. The real criminals who cause you the most harm wear expensive suits and are Caucasian. They love politics.

      Alexa also says that the majority of readers on this site are college educated, in fact 0% of the readers here have no education according to it’s research. I’ve also noticed that quite a bit of commentators on here are married, most of us are working, and we’re pretty tired of most of the images of black women in the media being negative. Lastly, there aren’t ENOUGH of positive images regarding black men or black women. Lee Daniels is part of the problem and his comments are irresponsible. I’m quite happy you’re the only one on here that appears to have somewhat sided with his heinous comments, that shows we are making progress.

      1. cosign with you Ms Hill! One point that no one spoke about it…its “his” story not our story! The school system is the same way. They take what we as a people and want to twist it or not teach it to the children so that they do not know their history. Parents are too caught up into “living” that they dont take the time to teach the children. So if we continue to leave it up to the Media and our “crab” barrell folks that only want to make a dollar out of 15 cents…then we will forever be angry. Yes we need more positive African American movies, tv shows or cartoons but at what expense? Our children will be confused if we continue to let them live in Disney channel and BET mix!!!!

  7. Before we disown the brotha, let’s look at the context in which his statement was made. He walked into a building in an urban area where non-profit public services are offered. Expecting to see a room full of men, he actually found a room full of Black women with children. This is a real scenario that he’s relaying, not something that he made up. They were there…he saw them…and Black gay men were noticeably missing. This is not to suggest that all Black women with children are on welfare, only that he thought he’d mistakenly entered a welfare office (another building where a different type of non-profit public services are offered) since he hadn’t expected to see any women with children there. His comment was not a put down of AA women, but was instead a rather a sad commentary on the social restrictions placed on Black gay men in terms of coming out and how those restrictions in turn affect Black women…many of which are mothers. Looking at the larger context and his intent, I’m not the least bit offended. From his statement and the ones following it I hear a man concerned about his communities (Black and gay).

    1. I agree, Jael! I get what the other commenters are saying, but I read a man stating his perception on a situation he didn’t expect when he walked into that office. His words may not have been well chosen, but the gist of what he was saying seemed pretty apparent, at least to me.

    2. Finally! Statistics are statistics maybe in his neighborhood it was his reality to see black women at the welfare office. I couldn’t even really watch Precious like that but the reality of poverty is real. You have to see the bigger picture or at least approach things with an open mind. I read the whole thing and I believe that it can be taken so many ways. You could view it as him bashing African American men, but it’s like everyone missed the point of the story! He was making a point of our women being infected by brothers on the down low, and how it made him feel. Please wake up.

      1. Okay, so maybe I can be more clear. Do you not understand how harmful it is that the majority of images of black women are negative? You are basically saying it’s okay to push these images forward at unfair levels, because it’s real in some demographics? Well how can black people advance if most of the images they see are not related to progression? I think you all want to defend this man so bad that you don’t want to see where the rest of us are coming from. There has to be more positive images of black women and men for us to advance. By drowning out our people with negative images, you and others are starting to think it’s the bulk of our reality. That is simply not true and the thought is destructive, not productive.

        You shouldn’t be annoyed that black women are fed up and demanding more positive images. Do you not understand what would happen to our race if we read more about Michelle Obamas and Barack Obamas than Lil Waynes and Evelyn Lozadas?

        1. OMG thank you! Loving all your comments. There is a bigger issue here and Lee Daniels is a small fish in a big pond. But we have to start somewhere, and I think we should be proud that so many black women are willing to fight for respect since we have been disrespected for so long. Time to hold people responsible!

        2. Sis, I understand where you and the others are coming from and I wholeheartedly agree with your overall point on the public imagery of Black women as it is most often portrayed to the masses. I just don’t think that it applies to Daniels’ statement. He never said all Black women were on welfare, nor did he indicate anything even close to that. He reported on what he literally saw in one single unexpected instance. This was not in any way a put down since he was making an entirely different point. As a sidenote, a mother being on welfare isn’t, by itself, a put down. Social services exist to help feed, clothe and house the masses. No one should be ashamed to receive help when it’s truly needed, nor should anyone look down on others for needing help. I know that’s a completely different conversation, but I’m just throwing it out there in case we have sister-friend’s here on UBM who need to know that we are not ashamed of them for their situation. Now, having a welfare mentality is a completely different issue. Anyway, back to the point. I get where you’re coming from and your position is very well-taken. I just disagree on the intent behind Daniels’ words this time.

          1. I agree with Jael. I didn’t take it as him bashing women. I got it the first time, but I read it again and got the same understanding. He was merely stating a point.

    3. Actually, what he said was very clear which was he feels most black women with kids are on welfare and because of that he mistakenly thought he walked into the welfare office. It’s not at all what you thought he said and that is exactly why he didn’t not make any excuses in the last video for what he said. He also said he feels black women are very complicated and we have complex issues that he must tell with his stories/films, even it if means the picture he paints isn’t pretty and makes people uncomfortable. I suggest people watch both videos in full, then you will understand why the commentators are upset. He’s also said other things in the past that are questionable that were not highlighted here. The majority of the commentators on here are right, we need more positive images of black women. The media is majority white, so comments like these are dangerous. Comments like these are why so many people mistakenly think black people make up the majority of welfare recipients, when we do not. Lee Daniels is part of the problem. He has power and doesn’t use it to really uplift black women. Someone needs to.

      1. Thank you. They asked him about the comment, and not once did he say that’s not what he meant. He meant it and then said he isn’t afraid to paint a picture that is not pretty about black women.

    4. No ma’am, I respectfully disagree. If you watch the whole interview, it’s very clear that he’s saying he thought he was in the welfare office because he believes a lot single black moms use welfare. Maybe that’s what he’s seen at a trip to a recent welfare office, but he’s saying this to the whole world in a media dominated by whites. While he was just trying to talk about black men being on the down low because they are scared to come out, as a black woman I am offended, no matter how minor a part the comment was in the interview.

    5. I don’t agree but I respect that all of yall can have different opinions and not get disrespectful with it. That’s rare on the blogs. #RealTalk

    6. Sorry, Jael that is such crap. And I’m sure if a rapper said the same thing you would be on here angry but because it’s Lee Daniels and you probably like his movies, you’re giving him a pass.

      It doesn’t matter if the offices are in the same building or not. To say he thought he was in the welfare office because he saw black women with kids in there is beyond stupid. Why couldn’t he have just said he thought he was there because he was in the same building? That was reckless period. And you know what’s even dumber, it’s the white media and blogs who pointed this quote out first and saw a problem with it. Yet, here you guys are saying it’s ok? Smh.

      The comment is destructive! And he said it in a way that the whole world heard it! And thanks to Lee, black women have again been painted as being on government assistance and depending on welfare in large numbers!

      Then on top of that, black people are constantly lied on and incorrectly cited for being on welfare the most out of all the other races. And it’s because of comments like this. If he didn’t mean to offend, he should have explained what he said when he had the chance. In fact, that would have been the right thing to do. He had a chance, why on earth didn’t he correct this? Instead when asked what he meant in the second video, he basically said he meant what he said and that’s because he doesn’t care. I’m glad most of us see it for what it really is.

      I’m done with him.

      1. I hear what you’re saying, Tee, and though I still disagree I can understand your outrage. For future reference, I’m not in the habit of giving people passes just because I like them. And to be honest, I don’t like or dislike Daniels. Never have really given him much thought at all.

    7. I agree with Jael, but I also agree with Tee! I see what he meant, but if he really loves black women like he says he does, he should have clarified the comments when they asked him what he meant. That would have cleared up the issue! But the fact that he didn’t clear it up makes me understand why a lot of black women are mad. It just makes him look careless.

    8. I agree when i go into the welfair office I see black and Hispanics with children. I’m shore if i was in a Predominately white area instead of NYC i would see white mothers in the welfair office. Everyone has a different reality maybe in ur area u see whites…………………………..

  8. They were irresponsible comments period! He’s an idiot and his movies suck anyway, there’s a petition boycotting him, sign it if you’re offended!

  9. ” I expected to see a room full of gay men, but there are nothing but women that are there – black women with kids, I thought I had walked into the welfare office”… This comment was taken the way it was stated! I am offended by the comment! Just because a room is full of black women with their children does not mean its a welfare office. Would he have felt the same way if he was doing a movie on a different race???? No…why because his simple mind only think in a box. I agree with the comment ” Because black men can’t come out. Why? Because you simply can’t do it. Your family says it, your church says it, your teachers say it, your parents say it, your friends say it, your work says it. And so you’re living on this DL thing and you’re infecting black women.”

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