Image Credit: Pixplanete/PR Photos; Daniel Locke/PR PhotosWho says politics and showbiz don’t mix? The celebrity feud between actor-activist Sean Penn and hip hop artist-turned-Haitian presidential candidate Wyclef Jean is getting more entertaining every day. The latest salvo: Penn’s blog in today’s Huffington Post. “I was there for those 6 months after the earthquake,” Penn wrote, “and so many of us on the ground wondered where [Jean] was when that kind of [media] attention was so necessary and absent, and why he was NOT helping to keep this desperate situation in the news.” (Marian Salzman — Jean’s publicist, who was also name-checked in Penn’s piece — gave the following response to EW: “There shouldn’t be a negative debate between Sean Penn and Wyclef Jean, who both obviously care deeply about the people of Haiti. There’s no reason they need to agree, but they certainly need to advance the dialogue about Haiti.”)
Earlier this month, you may recall, the former Fugees member announced on Larry King Live that he was running for president of Haiti, his homeland before moving to the U.S. at age nine. (It was a strange venue for the occasion, since not much of the electorate on that still-recovering island gets basic cable.) Afterwards, Penn was interviewed as a celebrity expert on the country, and he walked right up to the line of calling Jean an opportunistic and political lightweight. “I worry that this is more about a vision of flying around the world talking to people,” he scoffed. Jean responded on the Gayle King Show a few days later. “I would like to tell Sean Penn [that] I do not have to sacrifice my life and live inside a tent to prove that I am for the Haitian people.” Bam!
What makes Penn’s counter-attack today a bit curious is that it comes a week after the Haitian government declared Jean ineligible to run. (There’s a five-year residency requirement.) Jean has vowed to appeal that ruling, but that may be an empty threat, since Haiti’s judiciary apparently doesn’t allow for appeals. In any case, the whole thing does seem a bit rich. Jean may well be an opportunist trading his fame for political power — the guy refers to himself in the third person, for goodness sake, as in “His Excellency Wyclef Jean.” But of all people to criticize an entertainer for getting overly involved in politics — Sean Penn?
What do you think Popwatchers? Does Penn have a point? Or is he one to talk?