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Sean Penn thinks the #MeToo movement is trying to “divide men and women”
Sean Penn says he’s “very suspicious of a movement that gets glommed on to in great stridency and rage and without nuance.” Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

In an interview that aired Monday morning on NBC’s Today, actor Sean Penn shared some thoughts about the #MeToo movement. Spoiler alert: He doesn’t seem to be a fan.

Speaking to host Natalie Morales, who asked whether the depiction of strong female characters in his new space-themed Hulu show The First was inspired by the #MeToo movement, Penn said he hoped that wasn’t the case.

“I’d like to think that none of it was influenced by what they call the movement of #MeToo,” he said. “I think it’s influenced by the things that are developing in terms of the empowerment of women who’ve been acknowledging each other and being acknowledged by men. This is a movement that was largely shouldered by a kind of receptacle of the salacious.”

When Morales asked Penn what he meant by that, he continued, “We don’t know what’s a fact in many of the cases. Salacious is as soon as you call something a movement that is really a series of many individual accusers, victims, accusations, some of which are unfounded.”

“The spirit of much of what has been the #MeToo movement is to divide men and women,” Penn added. When Morales suggested that women, actually, have said that the movement — which has inspired people to speak out about their experiences with harassment and assault in Hollywood and beyond — has been uniting for women, not divisive, Penn claimed that the discussion around #MeToo lacks nuance.

“I’m gonna say that women that I talk to, not in front of a camera, that I listen to, of all walks of life, that there’s a common sense that is not represented at all in the discussion when it comes to the media discussion of it, the discussion where if Sean Penn says this, so and so’s going to attack him for saying this, because of that,” Penn said.

“I don’t want it to be a trend, and I’m very suspicious of a movement that gets glommed on to in great stridency and rage and without nuance. And even when people try to discuss it in a nuanced way, the nuance itself is attacked.”

So, apparently Penn has been having secret discussions with women from “all walks of life” who aren’t onboard with the #MeToo movement.

But it wasn’t clear whether Penn’s co-star, Natascha McElhone, who was also part of the interview, agreed with his assessment of #MeToo as a “receptacle of the salacious.”

“Of course it’s terrific that they’ve put a spotlight on it,” she said, seemingly alluding to some of the high-profile accusations of abuse, assault and harassment by powerful men in the entertainment industry. “But now, it’s we need to go to the places where this is happening behind closed doors, and it’s not exposed and those voices aren’t being heard.”