Sean Penn: El Chapo Article 'a Very Good Failure' - iMediaEthics

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Sean Penn being interviewed by Charlie Rose. (Credit: CBS News, screenshot)

Sean Penn spoke out last week about his infamous Rolling Stone interview with drug kingpin El Chapo when the actor appeared at the RSA Security Conference March 4 in San Francisco, Mashable reported.

Rolling Stone published Penn’s interview of El Chapo in early January, disclosing at the time that it has allowed the drug lord to have prior approval over the article, as iMediaEthics previously wrote. The interview was conducted while El Chapo was on the run after breaking out of jail but published shortly after El Chapo’s re-capture.

In an interview with CBS News’ Charlie Rose in the days after the article’s publication, Penn said his article “failed” because readers didn’t focus on what he wanted — the larger story of 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,” he explained at the time.  Penn went on, “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.”

In his appearance last week at the San Francisco conference, Penn seemingly walked back his claim the article “failed” because now he thinks everyone is talking about the War on Drugs like he wanted. Penn said, according to Mashable:

“What I meant in saying that the article failed was that the interpretations at large by mainstream media virtually failed to see what the article was about. Not only in the lines but between the lines and what I really meant by failed was to get them to say ‘oh it failed’ and to keep talking about it. And I sit back at home and I watch them talk about the drug war every f**king day now. It was a very good failure.”

Penn further commented that he thinks the War on Drugs is “repeating…the mistakes of the Prohibition era.” He said, according to Mashable:

“I had felt very strongly that we were repeating in this war on drugs, the mistakes of the prohibition era, that we were in my view, complicit in all that comes with them. And as somebody who writes, I was interested in what would happen between that interaction and my pen. So that was it.”

Earlier this year, Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner claimed the prior approval given to El Chapo wasn’t “a meaningful thing,” but the U.S. Society of Professional Journalists called the agreement “inexcusable.”

After Penn’s interview was released, Univision said it had actually been offered a similar deal to interview El Chapo under prior approval, but it turned the chance down.

iMediaEthics has contacted Rolling Stone to ask if it has any comment on Penn’s remarks about the article or any new comments regarding the El Chapo interview.

The RSA Security Conference identifies itself as “Where the world talks security.“Its website says, “RSA Conference conducts information security events around the globe that connect you to industry leaders and highly relevant information. We also deliver, on a regular basis, insights via blogs, webcasts, newsletters and more so you can stay ahead of cyber threats.”

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Sean Penn: El Chapo Article ‘a Very Good Failure’

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