"My article failed," the veteran actor told Rose.
The Gunman actor's goal was to discuss America's war on drugs with Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, who has allegedly made more than $1 billion from drug trafficking. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world and the numbers continue to skyrocket, according to the NAACP. The war on drugs, which levied lengthy sentences for minor drug offenses, is partially-responsible for the high incarceration rates, according to writer Eduardo Porter.
"It was the war on drugs in poor neighborhoods, right? I mean at least on the streets," Porter told Complex in 2014. "You know about the Rockefeller laws, right? If you get caught doing normal cocaine, you get a fraction of the sentence than if you're caught doing crack. This was encoded in law, and it's an enormous injustice."
Penn wanted to address this issue with Guzman.
"We all want this drug problem to stop," he told Rose. "And if you are in the moral right, or on the far left, just as many of your children are doing these drugs, just as many of your brothers and sisters, your mothers and fathers, the teachers at school, are doing these drugs."
The war on drugs wasn’t discussed for the Rolling Stone profile, but El Chapo was apprehended soon after chatting with Penn. The Milk star claims that he and his colleagues weren't responsible for Guzman's capture, so he doesn’t fear for his life.
"Here's the things that we know: We know that the Mexican government ... they were clearly very humiliated by the notion that someone found him before they did," Penn said. "Well, nobody found him before they did. We didn't–we're not smarter than the DEA or the Mexican intelligence."
After the story was published and El Chapo returned to prison, Penn received backlash for conducting the interview. He's let that roll off of his back. It's just a simply case of jealously.
"When you get the story that every journalist in the world wanted, there's a lot of green-eyed monsters who gonna come give you a kiss," Penn told Rose.
The criticism also showed Penn the "state of journalism in our country."
“It has been an incredible hypocrisy and an incredible lesson in just how much they don’t know and how disserved we are,” he said.
Even though journalists aren't licensed to practice the profession, the actor doesn't want trained journalist questioning his credentials.
"When...'journalists' who want to say that I'm not a journalist… well, I want to see the license that says that they're a journalist."