Left-wing activist/actor Sean Penn rejected David Letterman's characterization that Hugo Chavez, the anti-U.S. President of Venezuela, is “nuts” and, asked about suppression of free expression, Penn used that as a hook to ridicule Fox News as run by “loons.” Penn appeared on Monday's Late Show to promote his new movie, Into the Wild. Letterman noted Penn's visit with Chavez and related how he understands Chavez “is nuts” and “wacky.” Penn retorted that “if people have oil under their ground they're called wacky”and asserted he's done “incredible things for the 80 percent of the people that are very poor there.” When Letterman raised how Chavez is “talking about nationalizing the media,” Penn defended Chavez for closing a television station before rejecting Letterman's premise: “The idea that, that there's no freedom of expression, I mean the loons on Fox News are broadcast there every day.”
Video: The Late Show with David Letterman Web site features streaming video of this exchange (on its “Big Show Highlights” page, click on “Hanging with Hugo Chavez”).
Here's a transcript I made from the October 1 program:
DAVID LETTERMAN: To me, my impression of the guy, from what I hear and what I read and people tell me, is he's nuts, Hugo Chavez is wacky and kind of entertaining, but we ought to keep our eye on him. What was your impression of the guy?
SEAN PENN: Well, I think if people have oil under their ground they're called wacky. I found him a very fascinating guy. Very, you know, he's done, for the moment, incredible things for the 80 percent of the people that are very poor there. But a fascinating character, somebody I'm writing about.
LETTERMAN: But isn't he talking about nationalizing the media? That always makes me a little concerned when somebody's talking about doing that.
PENN: He's, well, you know, one of the things that's been said about him is he's shut down a television station. What happened is that since 1998 they had been encouraging the assassination of Chavez every day on that channel -- something that they would have gone to prison for here. And so he just didn't re-up that license. But meanwhile, you know, the idea that, that there's no freedom of expression, I mean the loons on Fox News are broadcast there every day.
The September 15, 2006 NewsBusters item with video, “Sean Penn: Bush Caused 'Enormous Damage to Mankind,' May Bring Fascism to U.S.,” recounted:
Actor Sean Penn, in a taped Larry King Live interview aired Thursday night on CNN to promote his new movie, All the King's Men, in which he plays a Huey Long-like character, suggested President Bush may bring fascism to America, charged that Bush has “devastated our democracy,” insisted Donald Rumsfeld and Bush have done “enormous damage” to “this country and mankind” and claimed the war on terrorism is meant to distract from reality.
Clearly referring to President Bush, a smirking Penn recalled: “Well, in 1932 Huey Long said something very interesting. It was, 'Fascism will come to America, but likely under another name, perhaps anti-fascism.'” Later, Penn fulminated about how “party clowns like Don Rumsfeld could be described as, as far as I'm concerned, except for the enormous damage he's done this country and mankind -- and our President -- and saw that they're getting out there and they're beating this drum, to drown out, as they did in 2002, to drown out other -- in that case it was Enron. Now we have another situation, so it's this war on terror, boom, boom, boom. Drown out the reality of what's really happening.” Penn also argued: “No Democrat that doesn't have a plan to get our troops out of Iraq should be voted for.”