NEW YORK – Sean Penn, just back from his three-day fact finding trip to Iraq, turned on his new pals in Saddam Hussein's government -- claiming they've transformed him into a weapon of mass propaganda.
Penn and various Iraqi bigwigs seemed to be fast friends on Sunday when the star issued a statement saying, "If there is a war or continued sanctions against Iraq, the blood of Americans and Iraqis alike will be on our hands."
But then Baghdad's online news service came up with a considerably more juicy story about the Hollywood actor.
"The American movie star Sean Penn has condemned the U.S.-British threats to wage war against Iraq," it said.
Not only that, but "he [Penn] confirmed that Iraq is completely clear of weapons of mass destruction and the United Nations must adopt a positive stance towards Iraq."
The story also said that Penn "condemned the U.S.'s misleading claims, arguing that it is the U.S., not Iraq, who is practicing such illegal behavior."
Penn's flack howled in protest, claiming her boss was the victim of terrorist misquotes.
"Oh, please! I don't know where those statements are being fabricated from," said spokeswoman Mara Buxbaum.
"This is specifically propaganda. It's a twisted interpretation of what he said. They are twisting his words."
According to Buxbaum, Penn never even spoke with the Iraq Daily.
So why would Penn's newfound buddies stab him in the back?
Buxbaum said Penn would not be available to answer that question.
Nor could she say whether the acid-tongued talent would now write off the terrorist nation.
Meanwhile, officials at the Institute of Public Accuracy, the liberal think-tank that sponsored Penn's trip, were also caught off guard by Iraq's alleged distortions.
"This is the first I'm hearing about it," said a spokeswoman, who promised to call back with a comment, but never did.
Penn's trip into the heart of enemy territory disgusted many Americans and won him the nickname "Baghdad Sean," a takeoff on the "Hanoi Jane" moniker Jane Fonda earned by visiting North Vietnam in 1971.
Movie brat Penn may be opposed to violence in Baghdad, but seems to take a different view in L.A.
For years, the in-your-face star attacked and cursed out fotogs who tried to take his picture.