American actor Sean Penn claimed last night that recently deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was one of history’s greatest leaders, and called George Washington a “loser” by comparison.
In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, the controversial star of Milk and Summerspell layered adulation upon the Latin American socialist, but declined to do the same for one of America’s founding fathers.
The special interview followed Penn’s trip to Caracas, where he attended the funeral of Chavez, the country’s longtime socialist leader who died last week of cancer.
Chavez was widely popular with a large swath of Venezuelan society and some Western left-wing activists like Penn. However, many criticized the former military commander – whose first attempt at power came in the form of a coup – for his tenuous commitment to democracy.
Piers Morgan took Penn to task for his support of Chavez’s revolution, but the Hollywood icon refused to back down.
“Piers, all great democracies start with a coup,” Penn explained. “Just look at Castro in Cuba, Lenin in the Soviet Union, or the Ayatollahs in Iran. All started with coups, but eventually all became thriving democratic societies. The same is true in Venezuela.”
Give Me Socialism
Penn then revealed that on his trip to Venezuela he had seen the marvels of Chavez’s system of government and claimed that the country will soon be better off than the United States.
“I think he might be one of the best leaders of all time,” Penn argued. “He showed the world that poor, marginalized peoples will not stand for historical injustices any longer.”
“But surely,” Morgan interrupted, “surely you don’t think Chavez is on par with someone like say… George Washington do you? He’s not a universality admired figure. A lot of people in his own country despised him.”
“Well, Piers, I don’t think George Washington is the best example of someone who’s universally admired,” Penn replied. “I’ve read a lot about early American history. And honestly George Washington… he comes off as a bit of a loser.”
“George Washington? A loser?” Morgan replied. “I am literally astonished. You’re an intelligent person. How can you possibly say George Washington was a loser?”
“First of all, he couldn’t speak French,” Penn explained, “and this was in an era when French was the language of high society. He tried hard, but just couldn’t do it. Kinda pathetic really.
“Secondly, the woman he married wasn’t exactly the cream of the crop. She had already been married, had two kids, and a face that launched 1,000 ships in the opposite direction. That’s the best George could do? I can tell you Chavez did a lot better.
“And third, you have to really question his judgement. I mean this is someone who wanted to make Benedict Arnold his second in command. His name is synonymous with treason. How could you not see that one coming?
American History F
Penn then extended his critique to all of America’s founding fathers, whom he blasted for their support of slavery.
“I consider myself to be an expert on colonial American history. And all these guys – George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin – they all had slaves. Franklin was the largest slave owner in Pennsylvania and controlled its tobacco farms.
“Why does the United States still celebrate slave owners? It’s shocking. Americans need to wake up and realize that the Founding Fathers were just a bunch of over-privileged, bourgeoisie white guys who didn’t want to pay their taxes.
“Chavez was something much different. He was a hero to the working class, and his revolution – unlike America’s – was staunchly anti-colonial.”
Stunned by his disrespect for America’s early leaders, Morgan then moved the conversation on to Penn’s charity work in Haiti.
Penn’s long-suffering publicist issued a statement shortly afterwards apologizing for his remarks.
“I deeply apologize for any offense my comments may have caused. I am a proud American and I recognize and celebrate the greatness of my country’s historical leaders.”