Sean Penn Slams Reaction to His 'El Chapo' Interview: 'My Article Failed'

The goal of sparking a discussion about the policy in the war on drugs just hasn't happened, the actor says


Sean Penn says that while his intentions were good, his Rolling Stone article about Joaquén “El Chapo” Guzmén was a “failure” because it didn’t spark any broad discussion about American policy in the war on drugs.

“I have a regret that the entire discussion about this article ignores its purpose, which was to try to contribute to this discussion about the policy in the war on drugs,” Penn said in a new 60 Minutes interview, portions of which aired Friday on CBS This Morning.

In his first public remarks since the article was published, the Oscar winner, 55, said there are real issues of accountability to address on the American side of the border that have nothing to do with Penn himself or his personal politics, which he suggested had become the focus.

“Let’s go to the big picture of what we all want,” he said. “We all want this drug problem to stop. We all want them – the killings in Chicago – to stop. We are the consumer. Whether you agree with Sean Penn or not, there is a complicity there.”

He added: “If you are in the moral right, or on the far left, just as many of your children are doing these drugs … And how much time have they spent in the last week since this article [came] out, talking about that? One percent? I think that’d be generous.”

Penn said he wanted the article, which followed a secret meeting with Guzmén in October, to make people question how the U.S. prosecutes the war on drugs.

“We’re going to put all our focus – forget about blame – we’re going to put all our focus, all our energy, all our billions of dollars on the ‘bad guy,’ and what happens? You get another death the next day the same way,” he said.

The actor was blunt in his view that the article barely led to any discussion about those issues. “Let me be clear. My article has failed,” he said.

Did Penn’s Meeting with Guzmén Help Lead to His Capture?

Elsewhere in the interview, Penn disputed the Mexican government’s assertion that his clandestine meeting with Guzmén helped lead to the drug lord’s capture last Friday. (An American source also told PEOPLE this week that the meeting was helpful in leading to Guzmén.)

“There is this myth about the visit that we made, my colleagues and I with El Chapo, that it was – as the attorney general of Mexico is quoted – ‘essential’ to his capture,” Penn said. “We had met with him many weeks earlier on Oct. 2, in a place nowhere near where he was captured.”

Penn said Mexican officials were embarrassed that they weren’t the first ones to find Guzmén, but said they shouldn’t be.

“Here’s the things that we know” he said. “We know that the Mexican government they were clearly very humiliated by the notion that someone found him before they did. Well, nobody found him before they did. We didn’t – we’re not smarter than the DEA or the Mexican intelligence. We had a contact upon which we were able to facilitate an invitation.”

Penn said he believes Mexico wants to see him blamed for Guzmén’s capture, and for the Sinaloa cartel to make him a target. Still, Penn insisted he does not fear for his life.

Again, he added, his goal was simple.

“This is somebody who – upon whose interview could I begin a conversation about the policy of the war on drugs,” he said. “That was my simple idea.”

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