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At one point during the interview, Penn called the musician a “non-presence,” even questioning Jean’s motives for announcing his presidential candidacy. (Watch the full interview below.)
“I’m not accusing Wyclef Jean of being opportunistic,” Penn said. “But I think it’s extremely important that we pay great attention to both the individuals in the United States who are enamored with him … and those that may themselves be opportunists on the back of the Haitian people.”
Penn brought corporations into the fold, alleging that they may have played a major role.
“Right now, I worry that this is a campaign that is more about a vision of flying around the world talking to people as he said. … I would be quite sure that this was an influence of corporations here in the United States and private individuals that may have capitalized on his will,” the actor said.
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer then asked Penn to elaborate on the corporate interests he mentioned earlier.
Penn responded with this: “What I’m encouraging is that we look very hard at all the donors because this is somebody who is going to receive an enormous amount of his support if he continues his campaign from the United States.”
Then came the golden nugget.
“I’m very suspicious of it, simply because he as ambassador at large has been virtually silent. For those of us in Haiti, he’s been a non-presence,” the actor said. Spoken loud and clear.
It hasn’t been marshmallows and rainbows for Jean. Earlier this year, reports surfaced that he had taken money from his Haiti foundation, and Penn brought it up again in his call to the media to interpret the full story.
“His voice has really been most loudly that which [he] allegedly had taken over $400,000 of money that was designated for Haitian relief for himself. … That’s going to have to be looked into,” Penn said.
Later in the segment, the actor had ideas on the qualities that make up the perfect candidate. “I want to see someone who’s really, really willing to sacrifice for their country and not just someone who I personally saw with a vulgar entourage of vehicles that demonstrated a wealth in Haiti that in context I felt [was a] very obscene demonstration,” he said.
Former Fugees bandmate Pras was also suspicious of Jean’s presidential desires. He issued a statement to New York Daily News endorsing opponent Michael Martell “because he is the most competent.”
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