News Release

* Penn’s Words Distorted * Views on Dissent

The following statement has been released by Sean Penn’s office:

In sharp contrast to some misleading claims — primarily emanating from media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch — the statements made by Sean Penn about Iraq have been clear and straightforward. In his open letter to President Bush, printed in The Washington Post on October 18, 2002, Mr. Penn wrote: “There can be no acceptance of the criminal viciousness of the tyrant, Saddam Hussein.” As has been widely reported by responsible American media organizations, Sean Penn conducted himself with care and sensitivity to his fellow Americans while in Iraq.

Sean Penn is a strong believer in the principles that went into the founding of his country. As he told a news conference in Baghdad on Sunday, “I believe in the Constitution of the United States, and the American people.” Describing himself as “privileged to have lived a life under our Constitution that has allowed me to dream and prosper,” Mr. Penn added: “In response to these privileges I feel, both as an American and as a human being, the obligation to accept some level of personal accountability for the policies of my government, both those I support and any that I may not.” He cares enough about human life to challenge our leaders to work towards a peaceful resolution to an obviously complicated issue.

It is the very foundation of this country, for which Sean Penn cares deeply, to encourage open discussion and express opinions, no matter their popularity. As fortunate, free-thinking citizens of the United States of America, we should be encouraged to sort through our own version of propaganda as it appears in mainstream media. Challenging ideas and policies is as American as it gets.

The official Iraq news agency’s misrepresentation of what Mr. Penn said at his news conference in Baghdad is hardly shocking. Propaganda exists and will be used to suit the perpetrator’s advantage. The fact that some — whether the New York Post or the official Iraqi news agency — are likely to distort his words will not prevent Sean Penn from continuing to speak out.

[Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, accompanied Penn to Iraq and is available for a limited number of interviews.]

Professor emeritus of political science at Boston University, Zinn is author of numerous books including the widely praised A People’s History of the United States. He said today: “People who are accusing the anti-war movement of being soft on Saddam simply aren’t listening to the anti-war movement. Every statement I’ve seen makes clear that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant….”
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Author of Rich Media, Poor Democracy, McChesney said today: “Traditionally the news media have had a tendency to reflect those in power, especially on foreign policy. Dissident voices are routinely marginalized, trivialized, distorted and even ridiculed, if not ignored altogether. History shows in the case of the Gulf War, Vietnam War, Korean War, Spanish-American War, these dissidents have been accurate more often than not…”
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Professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, Jensen is author of the book Writing Dissent and the pamphlet “Citizens of the Empire: Thoughts on Patriotism, Dissent, and Hope.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167