Sean Penn says his article in Rolling Stone based on his controversial clandestine meeting with the fugitive drug lord “El Chapo” was a failure because it didn’t spur a conversation about U.S. policy in the War on Drugs.
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was captured last week in Mexico, an event Mexican authorities said was aided by Penn’s meeting with the drug lord. Penn says that story is a “myth”; their meeting was “nowhere near where he was captured.” Penn believes that accusation was meant to make him a potential target for Guzman’s drug cartel.
The Hollywood actor and director sat down with Charlie Rose for his first interview about the controversy. Now people can hear from the actor himself. It will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES, Sunday, Jan. 17 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/7:00-8:00PM, PT) on the CBS Television Network.
On Sunday’s segment, Penn discusses the seven-hour meeting with Guzman, including how it was set up through actor Kate Del Castillo, the negotiations with the drug lord for the interview and his thoughts about meeting the world’s most wanted man.
Sean Penn: 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. We had met with him many weeks earlier. On Oct. 2, in a place nowhere near where he was captured.
Charlie Rose: So as far as you know, you had nothing to do and your visit had nothing to do with his recapture?
Penn: Here's the things that we know. 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 DEA or the Mexican intelligence. We had a contact upon which we were able to facilitate an invitation.
Rose: Do you believe that the Mexican government released this is part because they wanted to see you blamed and to put you at risk?
Rose: They wanted to encourage the cartel to put you in their crosshairs?
Rose: Are you fearful for your life?
Rose: I first wanted to know why you wanted to do this, why you wanted to go there. Second, I want to know the sense of how you felt about the risk you might be taking, and why that risk was worth it?
Penn: I had only -- only did I thought, "This is somebody who, upon whose interview could I begin a conversation about the policy of the war on drugs." That was my simple idea.
Rose: You wanted to have a conversation about the policy of a war on drugs.
Penn: That's right. 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.
Rose: Do you make a moral equivalency between El Chapo and people who either buy or sell drugs in America?
Penn: I do if it's me. I can't make -- I don't make that judgment for everyone else. But I wouldn't go so far as to buy or sell drugs.
Rose: So he's no better than you or no worse than you.
Penn: I say I can't make him worse than me if I'm not out there doing everything that I can to get a conversation going on the way in which we prosecute that war.
Rose: You have said to the AP, and I'm asking now, you have no regrets?
Penn: Yeah, I do -- I have a terrible regret--
Rose: What are the regrets?
Penn: 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. Let's go to the big picture of what we all want. We all want this drug problem to stop. We all want the killings in Chicago to stop. We are the consumer. Whether you agree with Sean Penn or not, there is a complicity there. 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. 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.
Rose: You're saying there's not much dialogue about--
Penn: My article failed.
Rose: As a result of El Chapo.
Penn: Let me be clear. My article has failed.