Getting too close to your sources is an occupational hazard in journalism, which is why Sean Penn should stick to acting.
Penn fell hard for El Chapo, managing to portray the homicidal maniac – he has killed or ordered the deaths of upwards of 3,000 people according to media reports – in a sympathetic fashion.
Forbes estimates El Chapo's personal fortune at $ 4 billion, all of it gained on the back of tens of thousands of dead drug addicts, dealers, pimps and whatever other dregs of society he exploited and ran.
There is only one description for a man who freely admits to killing 3,000 people and that is mass murderer, yet to read Penn’s “expose” you would believe that El Chapo is the one who is preyed upon.
Penn paints a portrait in Rolling Stone of a loving family man (albeit one with four wives and ten kids) who kills only to defend himself and who mouths platitudes about how his drug-dealings don’t affect people because if he died someone else would just take over.
In one truly bizarre observation Penn breaks wind in the presence of El Chapo and rejoices that the Mexican drug lord pretends not to notice. Chalk up another brownie point for the homicidal maniac.
Penn is so intrigued and happy to be with his subject that the entire interview is an exercise in flatulence and hot air. Penn doesn't notice how unbearably Hollywood the interview reads and sounds.
For all his reputation El Chapo cannot be that smart, though Penn clearly fails to acknowledge that.
Deciding your life is worthy of a movie and breaking cover to contact Hollywood stars who are attention-seeking guided missiles is not exactly smart thinking.
Penn admits to knowing he is being followed and probably wiretapped and there seems little doubt the raid that followed his visit was set up by his arrival there.
El Chapo, it seemed, could have escaped as he and an accomplice splashed through sewers when the initial assault began.
He inexplicably drove his car towards the troops rather than higher into the mountains, allegedly because he wanted to see his wife and kids before he fled.
It almost smacks of the keystone cops except in this case it is El Chapo who looks like the idiot. Eventually he is captured and kept in a brothel until police reinforcements arrive.
Penn with his wide-eyed gratitude for the interview and his constant comments about what an ordinary decent guy El Chapo seems to be, reveals himself as hopelessly compromised by his subject.
Penn has done invaluable work in Haiti, was one of the first to speak out against the Iraq war and has been a voice of liberal conscience many times in his career.
But the bungled interview with El Chapo will seriously damage his reputation. He was trying to rehabilitate the Hitler of the drug trade.
Given the misery and mayhem El Chapo has caused tens of thousands of families it was the wrong idea altogether. For what he has done to all those people El Chapo deserves the warmest circle in hell. There is simply no other conclusion to reach.