Comedian and host of “Club Random” podcast Bill Maher tore into actor Sean Penn for trying to defend former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Chavez rose to fame in 1992 after a failed coup. He was subsequently elected president in 1998 as a member of the Socialist Party. Under Chavez’s rule, the nation’s strategic petroleum reserves were significantly reduced while government debt more than doubled. Chavez also began ruling as an authoritarian, which only worsened the problems. Nicolas Maduro effectively established a dictatorship after Chavez’s death, building upon his predecessor’s consolidation of power.
Penn has long been an outspoken “friend” of Chavez, once saying that those in U.S. media who smear Chavez should be punished.
“Every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it, and accept it. And this is mainstream media. There should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies.”
Penn and Maher began discussing the relationship as the actor tried to blame current woes on Maduro.
“The food crisis happened later under Maduro, who can be accused of being a dictator and a bad manager,” Penn said. (RELATED: Maher Confronts Sean Penn Over Allegations Of Covid ‘Misinformation,’ Says US Govt Was A Purveyor)
“The inflation rate under your boyfriend Chavez was something like 27,000%,” Maher said.
“Hugo Chavez was my friend, however, ‘your boyfriend Hugo Chavez’ is not an appropriate term. He was my friend and he found himself in a position that he pursued, that fortunately neither of us have to be in,” Penn said. “To me, any head of state is a bad job. Making decisions about sacrificing US troops or using a drone that may kill babies.”
“Your friend ran a country that had enormous oil revenues,” Maher punched back. “Despite socialism, where the money should reach the people, that somehow never happened.”
Penn then disagreed and said Chavez was “giving it away” to the people and that his constituents owned oil like he did.
“You can’t really be defending Chavez from being corrupt with the oil money,” Maher said.
“I’m not going to speak for or against Chavez on his personal corruption,” Penn said. “My job in Venezuela was not as an advocate for Chavez. It was to create the thing that you celebrate, with your skepticism about the way in which the US demonizes someone.”
Penn elaborated, saying that American policy has infiltrated socialist leaderships in South America “in such an aggressive way.” Maher noting that other nations have been subject to U.S. interventionism and “recover[ed] from it at some point.”
“I am not being an apologist for Chavez’s policies or decision-making process,” Penn said. “I do, however, believe that his decision-making process is one we should study. When you have no trust and have good reason to believe that the US is trying to kill you, because we had done it before with Pinochet.”
“He was a bad dude,” Maher said.