After presenting to the world his ethically dubious and tediously written exclusive interview with Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, and after being implicated in the drug lord’s capture, Sean Penn is ready for his mea culpa, which he will deliver this Sunday on 60 Minutes. CBS has put up a teaser for the interview, in which Penn says he has “a terrible regret” about his article.
And what is that regret?
“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.
Sean Penn says he had pure intentions, and given that he is generally heralded by the gilded class as an exemplary philanthropist and humanitarian, you could understand why he would view his quest to meet and interview El Chapo as contributing to the greater good of society. I don’t necessarily disagree, either—we should hear directly from important, powerful people in the world, even if they are murderous, fugitive drug kingpins.
But this story was not going to be about the words of El Chapo, or the war on drugs. It was always going to be about the fact that, haha, Sean Penn secretly traveled into the Mexican jungle to interview El Chapo.
Even if Sean Penn didn’t understand what his story was really about, Rolling Stone certainly did. Penn genuinely may not have realized that writing 28 paragraphs before he even meets El Chapo might make the story less about the societal and political impact of El Chapo’s business, and more about the saga of Sean Penn’s secret meeting with El Chapo, Sean Penn’s pissing and farting included. Rolling Stone chose to publish those paragraphs, pissing and farting included. The fact that Rolling Stone didn’t even post their full 17-minute El Chapo video interview until days after Penn’s story ran certainly did not help convince anyone that the story was primary about El Chapo’s own words, and what they say about the war on drugs.
In the 60 Minutes interview, Sean Penn is contrite. Maybe even overly so. Here is a grim exchange he has with Charlie Rose:
“My article failed,” Penn said.
“As a result of El Chapo,” Rose said.
“Let me be clear. My article has failed,” Penn responded.
Maybe on Sean Penn’s terms it did. But when Rolling Stone editors look at their traffic reports for January, I very much doubt they’ll feel the same way.
[image via Rolling Stone]