Sean Penn Is Facing Serious Outrage for Interviewing El Chapo

January 10th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

The Rolling Stone interview with Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán has received a lot of attention since it was published online on Saturday — one day after Mexican authorities recaptured the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel — but not everybody was taken with the article, and some have criticized the writer, actor Sean Penn, for conducting the secret interview.


Why is the interview getting criticism?

The seven-hour secret meeting between Penn and Guzmán was arranged at an undisclosed location in Mexico months before Mexican officials were able to find and arrest the drug lord, who has escaped from two maximum security prisons since he was arrested on murder and drug trafficking charges in 1993. In July 2015, he escaped through an elaborate tunnel system, much to the embarrassment of the Mexican government.

Critics have questioned the ethical and legal circumstances surrounding the interview. The Sinaloa Cartel — one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world — has contributed to Mexico's ongoing drug violence, waging war against the country's law enforcement and killing civilians, as well as journalists, to impose control. Some believe that Penn should have informed government officials about the meeting.

The fact that Rolling Stone allowed Guzmán to approve the story before publication has also troubled some, who feel that the agreement represents a compromise of journalistic integrity. Penn conducted the seven-hour meeting without a pen, paper, or recording device, The New York Times reported, raising concerns about the fact-checking process.

RELATED: What El Chapo Revealed to Rolling Stone

What the critics are saying.

The New York Post published a cover headlined "El Jerko" on Sunday, which featured a photo of Penn and Guzmán shaking hands. (Penn asked for the photo to verify with his editors that the meeting had taken place.) "Penn pals with drug lord on the run."

RELATED: Drug Cartel Kingpin 'El Chapo' Guzman Recaptured in Mexico

It is true, however, that Guzmán's contact with Penn, as well as other actors and producers, "helped give law enforcement a lead on tracking and capturing the world's most notorious drug kingpin," the Associated Press reported. A Mexican official said that the interview with Penn led to a raid in October, where Guzmán narrowly escaped recapture.

Defense of Sean Penn?

And others have defended Penn's journalism, arguing that while it might appear to exceed some ethical guidelines, it represented an unprecedented opportunity that was handled appropriately.