March 5th, 2010
01:19 PM ET

Sean Penn says critics can all get rectal cancer

Actor Sean Penn, most recently embroiled in a paparazzi scandal, had a few choice words for those who believe his service in Haiti didn’t come from a pure willingness to help others.

During an interview on CBS’ “Sunday Morning,” CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan asked Penn if it made him angry when people talked about his work in Haiti in a cynical way.

The Oscar winner responded that he hadn’t “had an awful lot of time to pay attention” to the cynics, before adding, “you know, do I hope that those people die screaming of rectal cancer? Yeah, you know, but I’m not going to spend a lot of energy in it.”

Penn was on the ground in Haiti shortly after the earthquake, delivering aid and pitching in with relief efforts. He also established his own Haitian relief organization with a U.S. businesswoman, Diana Jenkins, and has donated more than $1 million in aid.

Penn has also included his 16-year-old son, Hopper Jack, and 18-year-old daughter, Dylan, in his relief efforts.

“I think that they’ve had the experience, as I have, that the first person served by service is the server,” Penn said of his decision to take his kids with him. “There’s nobody in the world that isn’t looking for a kind of purpose in life, and tangible purpose is the most immediately recognizable.”

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soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Hettie Herimann

    In Stage 0 rectal cancer, the tumor is located only on the inner lining of the rectum. To treat this early stage cancer, surgery can be performed to remove the tumor or a small section of the rectum where the cancer is located can be removed. Radiation treatment, given either externally (beamed in from the outside) or internally (radioactive beads are placed inside the rectum) may be considered. ;.".

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    July 2, 2013 at 5:43 am | Report abuse |
  2. robert

    I'm not sure who's worse the celebrities that want the attention or the photographers who give it to them.

    March 9, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jim

    I know firsthand that Penn's charity is doing great work in Haiti. Bravo Mr. Penn and everyone trying to help people in Haiti.

    March 7, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Michael Mallon

    I thought it was pretty funny. His politics are predictable but you just don't hear stuff like this every day and as a rule I think people should be more candid in their remarks to the press.

    March 7, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Darrin

    critic (n) – One who forms and expresses judgments of the merits, faults, value, or truth of a matter
    It's unclear who these "critics" are but whats even more unclear is why Penn would bother answering such a stupid question...the fact that he answered in such an immature manner only shows his insecurities and anger issues...Why even dignify such a question with a response?? It's comments exactly like those Penn made which will drive those "critics" to make similar comments in the future. Where Penn should of have respectfully declined such a question, he opened his mouth and justified those criticizing him.
    (By the way, everyone leaving a comment on this board, whether pro or con to Penn's comment, is a critic on the issue, and therefore also the target of Penn's rectal cancer comments)

    March 7, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. T. Durden

    I haven't followed this enough to know the identity of the "critics" but chastizing someone who volunteers their time, because of their celebrity status, might well deserve the affliction he is recommending.

    March 7, 2010 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  7. Stuie

    Sean's right. Critics are a useless lumps of flesh. They need to get off their asses and actually do something with purpose. Their opinions of others mean jack. You namby-pambies out there who thought he actually meant it can go scratch too. It was just a figure of speech. My grandmother died of rectal cancer but I didn't take offense to his comment. Penn could be in the pages of People magazine with those other "Got-to-be-seen" arrogant offspring of older actors, but instead is in another country helping human beings in their time of great need. So to all you other critics on this message board, if you cannot say something nice about one man trying to help another, go back to your video games and reality TV shows.

    March 7, 2010 at 7:47 am | Report abuse |
  8. Reality Check

    Some people are just full of crap. So many people spend their time crying out that those with lots of money and fame should help the less fortunate. Then when someone like Sean Penn goes out, every time I might add, and does it out of the goodness of his heart, they s**t all over him? You can't have it both ways. I 'd like to have everyone of his critics comment here and list how much they themselves have contributed to the world so that I can come back and s**t on them. What a bunch of losers. Grow up, stop criticizing others efforts and contribute something more than cynical BS.

    March 6, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bruce

    Sean, you do good work. Don't let people with ill will get under your skin. Don't let them anger you into saying things like this...but I do feel ya. It's annoying when people who never lift a hand to help anyone criticize those who do.

    March 6, 2010 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Wayne Messer

    It amazes me that only comments people can give his how Penn unloaded on critics.

    Who cares. He gives of his time in time of crisis. As it has been stated he could ignore these crisis and live off his fortune.

    Should he of said what he did. First he should of ignored the question.

    He seems to forget that critics are meaningless in the first place and are as they say "Those who can do, those that can't criticizes"

    But to get all anal about his words is inane.

    Focus on the accomplishments not something so insignificant that it has no merit in the first place.

    March 6, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Paul

    Sean Penn is a genius actor/director. He puts others ahead of himself in ways many of us have NEVER done. He says hostile stuff sometimes, but he (and we) have that right. I thank him for his courageous candor both artistically and not. I respect the man.

    March 6, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sandra Chung

    It's ok for critics to belittle him, call him names but dare he get annoyed and respond (yes, childishly) and suddenly he's the tool? He probably would have said "go f**k themselves" but he knew that would be edited out. So, he said something he knew would be passed along. Good for him.

    March 6, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Richard

    Love you Sean. I disliked you when you were younger and was arrogant and got into a lot of fights, but boy how do I love you now. You have shown yourself to be a selfless warrior for Justice over injustice and truth over deceit. God Bless you!

    March 6, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. malcom

    I wonder what the idiot critics did in Haiti? Or after Katrina hit? I wonder how much money the fat idiot critics have donated to charity, how many people they have helped?
    Those pigs who just sit back, and do nothing more than find ways to criticize celebrities. Sean should choose his battles more carefully, but considering that all those critics do is sit on their a$$es all day, it's quite possible that they WILL die of rectal cancer.
    We can only hope...

    March 6, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brando Brandt

    Sean Penn is a buffoon. He is an ignorant millionaire who constantly abuses his celebrity in the name of his supposed “good will” or what he considers to be “worthy causes”. There is no arguing that providing aid to the people of Haiti or of any other country suffering from such devastation is obviously an honorable act; however Sean Penn is not a good example.
    He has been blinded and biased in the sad-spectacle of what he calls journalism while he has visited the capital of my country, Venezuela. Does he really believe that riding around sitting next to the president/dictator, surrounded by hundreds of armed men, will give him a clear perspective of what life can be like in Venezuela? Who does he think he is and what gives him the right to stand up for and debate any of the atrocities committed by the current Venezuelan Government over the last 12 years (that’s right, 12 years…). Do some real research first (not a weekend getaway shacked-up with the government authorities), listen to what the people have to say about life in Caracas and then maybe you should still think real hard before speaking.
    It’s like he’s become delusional and believes he’s the lead character of a movie where he has to protect the poor-innocent president/dictator of one of the wealthiest Countries in the world (that’s right, the wealth of Venezuela is unimaginable despite the reigning poverty and misery of the majority of its population… you do the math). What a shameful role to play Sean Penn. You are a disgrace to the entertainment industry.

    March 6, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  16. UtahLiberal

    The more one reads about Sean Penn the more it becomes quite obvious the guy is for real. He may have his flaws as does everyone, but when a guy who could just live the very easy life in his time off from making movies instead does things like this it shows true character. He doesn't need to volunteer in Haiti to get more fame or fortune so let the critics rant. What are they doing to make the world better? Absolutely nothing, they criticize others but basically are worthless people. Sean Penn on the other hand has character and generosity. Actions speak louder than words.

    March 6, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Voig Nederlander

    The world needs more people willing to put their own time and money into helping others. Sean Penn doesn't need publicity at this point, so it's really hard to imagine his having ulterior motives.

    Here is a good man, a humanitarian and a first responder. I don't blame him in the slightest for reacting angrily for a few reasons. One, how dare anyone presume to know what his motivations are and two, I can imagine it would be frustrating to watch the attention you are trying to bring to a desperate situation get shifted onto yourself when all you want to do is help.

    Finally, even if you truly believe he's a spotlight hog and is doing this merely for his own gain, you STILL can't argue with the help and attention even those selfish motives have brought to the people for Haiti.

    A few people get it. When it comes to something like this, what country you come from becomes a non-issue. We should always be willing to help those in need.

    March 6, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Jason

    Oh come on.. he is just saying what he feels, most people don't even know how they feel to say it, too programmed through this culture and its media to form a genuine opinion (which is defined by webster as an uninformed utterance anyway).. he was asked what he thought.. he told them. Does he really wish cancer on someone?? I doubt it. Wake up. Stop responding the way you think this culture wants you to respond. Programmed. Other than the fact its a shame a comment such as this can take precedence over a real issue such as the one in haiti, people like Sean Penn laugh at the uproar a comment like this makes. Your silly. Way to go Sean keep up the aid efforts in haiti. People have short memory.

    March 6, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  19. Ana

    I think Sean Penn is phenomenal!!! He has the right to express his opinions just as we do. None of us have to like it. Way to go Sean!!!

    March 5, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  20. SK

    And he's a hottie!

    March 5, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  21. tanner

    "oh...and also...he is quite possibly the best actor of his generation."

    Oh please, get a grip. Not even in the same discussion as the true best.

    And, if he wishes me cancer (which he did cause I am a critic) then can I call him a P.O.S. on your website CNN?

    March 5, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  22. darlene d

    Right on Tricia! Sean Penn is one of those silent actors who will do goodwill towards others without cameras being around to make a big deal about it. There are many like him that we never hear about.

    March 5, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Victor

    Look, this man may have a problem picking his words, but if there is one thing you can all be sure of is that he does waht he does from his heart.

    Does anyone even remember that afte Katrina hit New Orleans he was one of the first people going into the city (on a boat for goodness sakes) trying to find survivors. Or what about all the work he did to help the people affected bye the Indonesia Tsunami.

    Sean, you are an example to your fellow americana. I hope that you keep on kkepin on and follow your heart always.

    March 5, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Brian

    oh...and also...he is quite possibly the best actor of his generation.

    March 5, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Brian


    March 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Lowell Reed

    I think Penn's comments were hilarious. I'm with tricia on this one, lighten up, who cares ? Screaming rectal cancer – wish I'd thought of that onemyself.... He meant it to be funny so don't take it seriously. He went to Haiti to lend a hand, took his kids and raised some money. Good for him, he is a stand up guy. He is also one of the greatest actors of this era. Critics do nothing, build nothing, creat nothing, and accomplish nothing. They are just parasites on the rear end of people who actually get things done.

    March 5, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Why say anything?

    Sean has attracted negative press for years and he will continue to do so. The focus needs to be on Haiti. It's unfortunate he expressed himself in such a thoughtless way. Too many people have lost loved ones to cancer to make it part of a flippant remark to voice his displeasure. To wish cancer on people for voicing their opinion? Classless. But that is just my opinion and I certainly don't wish cancer in any form on anybody that disagrees with me.

    March 5, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  28. A Swede

    For all his inflammatory comments and (in some people's opinion) and misguided politics – at least the guy is trying to bring some good to the world and using his own money to do so.

    March 5, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  29. tricia

    Oh lighten up everyone! He's doing a good thing...people just have it out for Sean. Ask yourself: what good have you done lately!?

    March 5, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Katherine

    Who gives a crap why he's doing it? Isn't it more important that he's getting something done, and less about what motivated it? At the end of the day the people who got food or shelter because of him don't care why he did it, only THAT he did it. The critics are stupid, and I highly doubt that he actually wants them to die of cancer. He has a right to be upset with them, they clearly have nothing better to do. Maybe they should stop criticizing and fly out to join him instead. Then they'd actually accomplish something worth accomplishing.

    March 5, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Get serious

    Sean Penn is the result of rectal cancer of the mouth...what a tool...

    March 5, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  32. lauratj

    Shame on you ,Sean Penn.I like him as an actor,as an activist but to wish cancer on a critic is so immature.You should never wish bad on anyone–it can come right back to you.He should also learn some self control– in his words and actions.Does good deeds & then blows it with his big mouth. Shame,shame,shame. Be a man.

    March 5, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  33. LBW

    He goes to another country and does a good thing. Bully for him, but he treats his fellow countrymen like crap.

    March 5, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  34. Head Diva In Charge

    Yeah, Sean, ummm, way to make an awkward, inappropriate comment and over shadow the good work you are doing. A+ on that my friend.

    March 5, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |

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