Sean Penn tells Charlie Rose he regrets El Chapo interview

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Sean Penn says he “regrets” having sat down with Mexican drug lord El Chapo in October, and that his Rolling Stone interview with the fugitive “failed” in his intended purpose, which was to begin a national conversation about the way this country is conducting its war on drugs.

Penn gave an interview to Charlie Rose last night in Santa Monica, which also will play out on CBS’s evening newscast, on Sunday newsmag "60 Minutes," and in its entirety on Rose’s PBS program.

On "CBS This Morning," Rose said Penn did the interview with him to “clarify his involvement in El Chapo’s capture,” after Mexican authorities said knowledge of his trip helped them move in on drug lord Joaqun Guzmn, who is better known as El Chapo. Penn “believes those claims…are incorrect and could put him in danger,” Rose said.

Penn dismissed “this myth about the visit that we made, my colleagues and I, that it was….essential to his capture.” “We had met with him many weeks ago, on October 2. In a place nowhere near where he was captured.”

Rose asked if, so far as Penn knows, he had nothing to do with the fugitive’s recapture. (CBS News reported yesterday, “The trail for Guzman had gone cold until telecommunication intercepts — along with Penna and Castillo’s travel to meet El Chapo — helped U.S. and Mexican law enforcement narrow down the drug lord’s location.”)

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    “We know the Mexican government, they clearly were humiliated by the notion that someone found him before they did,” Penn said. “Nobody found him before they did. We are not smarter than the DEA, or Mexican intelligence. We had a contact upon which we were able to facilitate an invitation.”

    Penn said, when asked, he believed Mexican government release this statement, in part because they wanted to put him at risk.

    “They wanted to encourage the cartel to put you in their crosshairs?” Rose asked.

    “Yes,” Penn reiterated.

    But, Penn insisted he was not fearful for his life.

    “I thought only, this is somebody upon whose interview could I begin a conversation about the policy on the war on drugs. That was my simple idea,” Penn told Rose, when asked why he did the interview.

    “We’re going to put all our focus, forget about blame, all our focus, all our energy, all our billions of dollars, on the bad guy. And, what happens? You get another death the next day,” the actor elaborated.

    Rose noted Penn previously had told the AP he has no regrets about meeting with Guzman.

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    “I have a terrible regret…that the entire discussion abut this article ignores its purpose which was to try to contribute to this discussion about the policy to the war on drugs,” Penn countered.

    “Let’s go to the big picture of what we all want. We all want this drug problem to stop. we all wants the killings in Chicago to stop.We are the consumer. Whether you agree with Sean Penn or not, there is a complicity there. And if you are in the moral right, or on the far left, just as many of your children are doing these drugs. And how much time have they spent in the last week, since this article came out, talking about that? One percent?

    “My article has failed. Let me be clear, my article has failed,” Penn acknowledged.

    It previously has been reported Penn’s contact with Guzman was facilitated by actress Kate del Castillo.

    Rose flew to Los Angeles earlier this week, appearing at TCA to plant his flag in the Sean Penn story. I went to see [Penn] last night soon after I arrived, and Im planning to interview him about his experience, and look forward to that as soon as all the things can be worked out. I have a thousand questions for San and all the people involved in this, Rose told journalists during the CBS News panel at TCA.

    The journalists in the room had a thousand questions too, for Rose which Rose declined to answer, understandably not wanting to do anything to scuttle the deal, since the full interview hasnt happened yet. Among the non-answered questions were his thoughts about Guzman’s recent capture, whether Penn should have alerted authorities as to the drug kingpins whereabouts, etc.

    I cant speak to it and will not speak to it at this time, but Im really looking forward to it, Rose said, maddeningly, in answer to one such question.

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    Penn interviewed El Chapo over seven hours in person, with follow-ups via video and phone, starting last October while his subject was on the lam. It was the second time Guzmn had escaped jail. He was captured again last week after a gun battle.

    The interview with the man Rolling Stone called “the most wanted man in the world” was published with this disclosure:

    Disclosure: Some names have had to be changed, locations not named, and an understanding was brokered with the subject that this piece would be submitted for the subjects approval before publication. The subject did not ask for any changes.