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Sean Penn Faces Backlash After Bombshell ‘El Chapo’ Interview

January 10, 2016

Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman is escorted by marines after his capture in February 2014 following an earlier prison break.ALFREDO ESTRELLA AFP/Getty Images

One day after Rolling Stone published his clandestine interview with Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, Sean Penn has received social media backlash from many journalists – and is reportedly under investigation by the Mexican government.

Penn’s piece on Guzmán was published Saturday night, one day after the Sinaloa cartel head’s recapture by authorities. But Penn said his contact with Guzmán was last year, when the cartel head was then a fugitive after his escapefrom federal prison in July.

The Rolling Stone piece – already the No. 1 most-read item on its website – is additionally prefaced with an editor’s note that it was submitted for Guzmán’s approval before publication, though the magazine said he did not “ask for any changes.”

While some readers marveled on social media at the sheer oddness of the interview as an idea, some journalists took issue with the focus and tone of the piece, which some said obscured Guzmán’s history as a violent drug trafficker.

A few journalists also blanched at the arrangement of prior review. And some simply took issue with Penn’s first-person narrative, which included a mention that he had to “expel minor traveler’s flatulence” in front of his interview subject.

It was not a universal backlash.

While Mexican government sources told ABC News Penn, 55, was now under investigation for the interview, authorities also told the Associated Press that it was his meeting with Guzmán in October that allowed them to first locate the kingpin, in an ultimately aborted raid.

As the New York Times noted, the candid comments Guzmán gave to Penn, in his first interview in years, “mark[ed] a stark admission that he has operated a drug empire.”

Guzmán was recaptured early Friday following a shootout with marines.

Penn declined to comment on the interview when he attended his Help Haiti Home charity gala in Los Angeles a few hours after the story’s publication.