Sean Penn Responds To Ted Cruz’s Claim That Hollywood Is Glorifying ‘El Chapo’

Ted Cruz criticized actor-activist Sean Penn at an addiction policy forum in Hookset, New Hampshire, on Thursday. The recent winner of the Republican Iowa Caucus spoke on the drug problem in America, then turned his attention to illegal immigration.

Cruz shared his family story of a half-sister who died from a drug overdose in 2011. Former addicts also testified at the meeting. Cruz later zoned in on Penn, who interviewed and wrote an article on Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a Mexican drug lord who was re-arrested on January 8.

The article appeared in Rolling Stone on January 9, and many believe Sean crossed the line by interviewing then-fugitive El Chapo. Although Penn said his intention was to start a conversation on the War on Drugs, others believe the piece focused on El Chapo’s notoriety. Cruz, apparently, falls into the later category, per Mother Jones.

“El Chapo. You know, Sean Penn seems to think he is a sexy and attractive character. I so appreciate Hollywood for glorifying vicious homicidal killers. What a cute and chic thing to celebrate. Someone who murders and destroys lives for a living. El Chapo’s organization brings vast quantities of drugs into this country, vast quantities of heroin.”

Penn responded directly to Cruz’s statement, added Mother Jones.

“Ted Cruz is a generically funny and dangerously adept thought-smith. Clearly, he watches too much television and neglected to read my article before criticizing. It’s understood. He’s busy trading genius and raising aspirations with Mr. Trump. Blame Canada.”

The tail end of the comment, “blame Canada,” references a song by the same name, and Canada is where Cruz was born.

This is not the first time that Penn has made a negative reference to Cruz. In a Piers Morgan interview on CNN, the actor once called for the congressman and his Tea Party colleagues to be committed to mental health facilities by executive order for shutting down the government in 2013.

Despite the actors’ opinion of the Republican presidential hopeful, there are others who believe that Penn’s reason for interviewing El Chapo was based on self-interest. U.S. federal authorities are now saying that the interview may have been an extreme method of allowing Penn to gain access to El Chapo. Since the interview, Penn stated his article was a “failure,” but posing as a journalist allowed him to escape a U.S. federal law that prohibits interaction with a known “significant foreign narcotics trafficker,” according to an unnamed government source via Fox News.

“Penn said his story was a ‘failure’ because the real objective was to ignite the debate on how the war on drugs is a failure, but it is not a failure if he lands in the role of a lifetime.”

Penn secured a letter from Rolling Stone, which stated that he and two filmmaker colleagues were acting as journalists during the El Chapo interview. However, Kate del Castillo, the Mexican-American actress who brokered the meeting didn’t receive the same protection. Mexican authorities are now demanding that she meet with them to explain her relationship with the Sinaloa cartel leader and the details of the meeting. To date, she has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Axel Uriegas Duarte, director of Chapo, The Escape of the Century, said Penn’s meeting will help the actor portray the drug lord accurately. The meeting took place in the jungles of Mexico with two of El Chapo’s lieutenants and his sons next to him. Duarte said Penn can now easily play the part, Fox News also noted.

“Sean Penn is one of the best actors in the world. If he plays El Chapo, he will play the role perfectly. To make movies more realistic, Sean Penn should meet with the people he will play.”

Sean is known for immersing himself in real-life situations before embarking on an acting assignment. Before his role in I Am Sam, Penn spent time in a mental health facility. But the penalty for a U.S. citizen’s role in business discussions a certified drug kingpin is up to 10 years in prison and hefty fines.

What do you think about Sean Penn’s actions, and do you think his motives were self-serving?

[Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty]