Sean Penn Tells ‘60 Minutes’ He Was ‘Stunned’ By El Chapo Meeting

Sean Penn Tells '60 Minutes' He
Courtesy of CBS

Millions of people were surprised that actor Sean Penn was able to meet with escaped Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman for an article that would make its way into the pages of Rolling Stone. Sean Penn was one of them.

In an interview with CBS News anchor Charlie Rose on “60 Minutes” Sunday evening, the actor told Rose that he assumed Mexican officials were aware of what he was doing, and that the meeting was indeed a risk for Guzman as well as himself. “I was– I was stunned– that– that– that he w– would risk– our trip. I was stunned,” Penn said in the interview, according to a transcript provided by CBS News. “I was baffled by his will to see us,” Penn added later on in the talk.

Guzman was free after escaping one of Mexico’s most secure prisons last July, making Penn’s visit to see him exceedingly dangerous, and, some have charged, something that skirts the borders of journalist ethics. Among the reactions to the Rolling Stone article, published online January 9, were questions over whether Penn should have pressed for more answers regarding Guzman’s many crimes and the effects his distribution of narcotics had on those who bought them.

But the actor rebuked the notion that he did not press Guzman harder on his transgressions. ” I think the policy of the war on drugs, which so deeply affects all of our lives, seems not to change. It seems to be so unmovable.  And it occurs to me  that often, because we want to simplify the problem, and we want to look at a black hat and put our resources into focusing on the bad guy and na– and– and–  and I understand that. I absolutely understand justice and– and the rule of law,” Penn said. ” And so I  do what I call experiential journalism.   I don’t have to be the one that reports on the alleged murders or the amount of narcotics that are brought in. I go and I spend time in the company of another human being, which everyone is. And I make an observation and try to parallel that, try to balance that with the focus that we– that I believe we– we tend to put too much emphasis on.”

The actor, known for his roles in such film as “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “Mystic River,” “Milk” and “Dead Man Walking,” acknowledged he gained access to “El Chapo” under the condition that the escaped convict would be able to kill the article if he didn’t like what was written about him. “What was brokered for me to have the interview with El Chapo was that I would– finish the article, send it to him, and if he said no, then that was no harm, no foul to any reader,” Penn said.

Penn believes he failed to accomplish his goals, which was to talk about the U.S. government’s war on drugs. “We all want this drug problem to stop.  And if you are in the moral right, or on the far left, just as many of your children are doing these drugs, just as many of your brothers and sisters, your mothers and fathers, the teachers at school, are doing these drugs. Just as many,:” he said. “And how much time have they spent in the last week since this article come [sic] out, talking about that? 1– 1%? I think that’d be generous.”

Even so, Penn said he has no regrets about his actions, and was simply trying to offer readers a look at a hard-to-reach figure in order to illuminate discussion around a heated issue. “I’m really sad about the state of journalism in our country,” he told Rose. “It has been an incredible hypocrisy and an incredible– lesson in just how much they don’t know and how disserved we are.”


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  1. Carla says:

    Sean Penn makes very little sense. Really disappointing to watch…
    He’s a good actor..not sure what’s going on in his mind…he seemed very nervous. His comments we’re moronic…

  2. Les says:

    Sorrow for misspelling, it’s early.

  3. Whisper Willow says:

    Sean Penn exposed himself to be a self-proclaimed journalist tonight on 60 Minutes. What a pathetic joke he is. He’s arrogant and delusional. This Hollywood brat showed his own ignorance on the matter of drugs. What a moron. Go back to Haiti and stay.

  4. Mr. Rogers says:

    Mr. Penn intentions were to enlighten through understanding the source of a menace that plagues our nation. Nevertheless, why is it that the first profession to be thrown under the preverbal bus is always the TEACHERS!!!!! Before he was interrupted Mr. Penn stated… People of all walks of like are using drugs… including the TEACHERS….ARE YOU KIDDING ME….WHAT IN THE HELL DID THE TEACHERS DO THAT MADE THE WORD TEACHER A FOUR LETTER WORD IN THIS COUNTRY???? If you can read this thank a teacher!!!!

  5. Mary Ryan\ says:

    I read Penn’s article and found it to be boring and more editorial with a premeditated point of view than journalistic. The HUBRIS of Mr Penn is most apparent when he articulates his failure to Charlie Rose that the article did not spark a dialogue regarding US drug policy because “we” were not smart enough (paraphrase) to understand what he served up as a catalyst. I think its great that he wants to sit down human to human so that we get an understanding of what the drug trade represents and its linkages to the Mexican economy. I think that article could have been written without the side-show of the El Chapo interview. My take away from Mr Penn is that America is to blame for the violence in Juarez and not stemming from the fact that El Chapo or his sons Ivan and Alfredo have had the reigns of an organization/corporation that deals with any rancor or discord via executions. I think Mr Penn is snide and dismissive of our ability to read the drivel that he “penned” (pun intended). He wasted a great opportunity and I don’t think he posses the intellectual abilities to kick start a dialogue about drug policy or even school lunch policy.

  6. Greg says:

    Charlie Rose (60 minutes) exposed Sean Penn tonight as arrogant with no concept of actions vs. consequences. Penn claimed to be an “experiential journalist” but is as complicit in the drug war as the idiot selling smack on the corner. He became the story… Sacrilege as a journalist.

  7. Steven Tagashira says:

    Face it. 60 Minutes was scooped by Sean Penn, and now you are jealous.

    Steven Tagashira

    College point, NY

  8. Dan Scher says:

    Sean Penn is a self-important phoney. He needs to be told that he did not say anything that made sense or, certainly, did not add anything to the USA pervasive horrible drug problem.

  9. Goran says:

    Sean Penn is Jeff Spicoli at age 55. Wow, this guy is pathetic !!! I hate to use the word stupid but that describes him perfectly. Listen to the interview again, he can’t even form a proper English sentence !!! His grammar is awful.

    Penn is a great actor and I love his movies but he is a lost human being.

  10. Gayle W. Duskin, Ph.D. says:

    It was clear that Sean Penn missed a cardinal rule for writers of articles. They must have a clear sense of their audience and the purpose for writing the piece. Penn’s rambling rhetoric in the interview with Charlie Rose showed that he didn’t have a clue. Whatever made him think he could be a writer worthy of attention is beyond me.

  11. Tom says:

    Wow sean and i have something in common we both dropped out of high school. However compaired to him i feel much better about myself for not getting a formal education after listing to his incoherent dribble on 60 minutes. Money fame and not a lick of common sense or intelligence….

  12. Wanda says:

    Good for you Sean Penn! At last someone is doing some real journalism .

    • wishinwell says:

      Watching the 60 min. have a better understanding of what he (Penn) was trying to do- gain some insights on this big issue, agree with Penn that anybody can be a journalist and Penn being an actor has an advantage in that he tries to understand his characters(good or bad) so to him it probably felt like preparing for a role- also agree that Sean Penn could not possibly have been the first to find him.

  13. J w says:

    The interviewer was so intent on coming across holier than thou that Sean Penn did not have the time to communicate all that he wanted to. Sometimes your employees need to shut up and listen.

  14. Jackson West says:

    Why did 60 minutes even bother to interview Penn, the interview demonstrated how out of touch Penn is with reality. On top of that, his rambling responses and lack of logic or any sort of cogent thought made for a rather boring interview.

    • Nancy Dupre says:

      I agree he had no opportunity to even give his thoughts. He was interrupted 6 times

      • Jackson West says:

        On that point I agree with you — if Rose had let Penn just ramble on with his dribble about how “El Chapo” is a human being like you and me, it would have clarified how far out in space Penn is and allowed the audience the decency to use their channel changer to turn to something with greater intellectual content… Penn is what I would characterize as a ‘pseudo-intellectual’ who, unfortunately, has been breathing his own fumes for too long and has the resources to get a national audience. He was never a particularly great actor either.

  15. ansulia says:

    Thank you. Sean Penn. !!!Finally some one say the. True. About. Drug

  16. Patricia Campo says:

    It seems that Mr. Penn was nervous, but I think I understand what he was trying to say was he wanted to get to the root of the problem. If you don’t figure out why somebody does what they do you can’t fix the problem. Another words lack of education lack of job opportunities is what pushed El Capo into this business. If you don’t figure out what peoples motives are, you can’t fix a problem. Nobody’s condoning the behavior you’re just trying to figure out why they do what they do.

    • Jackson West says:

      Yeah we’re all victims and have no personal responsibility for our actions because we grew up in the wrong neighborhood or had the wrong parents or didn’t have enough money or resources or education. It’s everybody else’s fault!!!

  17. Frank says:

    This guy is a self centered idiot. He actually believes that he knows more than the rest of the world. He is NOT a journalist and has NO idea what he is doing. He was just looking for somekind of fame for being the guy who interviewed the biggest drug dealer in the world. MAYBE he should stick to what he knows being an actor and NOT an investigative reporter.

  18. Julie d says:

    Sean Penn, albeit a naive attempt, at least tried to offer a different view. Extremism in judgement will never accomplish an understanding amongst human relations and socio-economic issues. I applaud his intentions, however, i would hope to see more thoughtful approach to busing his celebrity to create meaningful understanding of the difficult realities of our world.

  19. Ana says:

    I was not a fan of Penn. I’m taking by surprise at his realistic and down to earth knowledge. I’m an American of Mexican decent an agree with him of the poor journalism in our country, the USA. The Mexican journalism in Mexico has been bought and that is where we are heading.

  20. john nyamu says:

    charlie rose is exactly whom i thought he was — the man.

  21. Bob says:

    Sean penn is a piece of scum looking for publicity and money. He acts like he is totally honest and states this is a journalist issue and the U.S. Journalists are non existant.

    Scavenger looking for money with no moral conscience

  22. Lucifer says:

    Moronic, he should be locked up for idiocy

  23. Ron Bollins says:

    Sean Penn is a complete idiot

  24. John Koss says:

    Unbelievable! Sean Penn should have interviewed Reinhard Heydrich and tried to make him look like an angel. He seemed scared and worried during this interview. Who is this guy? Actors have a false sense of themselves and their importance to Society as a whole. They live and work in FANTASY that’s it. I don’t think he realized the scope of this stunt!

  25. Bill Milner says:

    Penn seems unorganized in his thinking.

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