Penn’s piece on Guzmén was published Saturday night, one day after the Sinaloa cartel head’s recapture by authorities. But Penn said his contact with Guzmén was last year, when the cartel head was then a fugitive after his escape from federal prison in July.
The Rolling Stone piece – already the No. 1 most-read item on its website – is additionally prefaced with an editor’s note that it was submitted for Guzmén’s approval before publication, though the magazine said he did not “ask for any changes.”
While some readers marveled on social media at the sheer oddness of the interview as an idea, some journalists took issue with the focus and tone of the piece, which some said obscured Guzmén’s history as a violent drug trafficker.
A few journalists also blanched at the arrangement of prior review. And some simply took issue with Penn’s first-person narrative, which included a mention that he had to “expel minor traveler’s flatulence” in front of his interview subject.
It was not a universal backlash.
While Mexican government sources told ABC News Penn, 55, was now under investigation for the interview, authorities also told the Associated Press that it was his meeting with Guzmén in October that allowed them to first locate the kingpin, in an ultimately aborted raid.
As the New York Times noted, the candid comments Guzmén gave to Penn, in his first interview in years, “mark[ed] a stark admission that he has operated a drug empire.”
Guzmén was recaptured early Friday following a shootout with marines.
Penn declined to comment on the interview when he attended his Help Haiti Home charity gala in Los Angeles a few hours after the story’s publication.