"Birdman" Director Alejandro Inarritu is congratulated backstage by Best Picture presenter Sean Penn at the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
Sean Penn sparked a controversy near the end of Sunday’s Oscars telecast with an off-color comment about “Birdman” director Alejandro González Iñárritu.
While presenting the Academy Award for Best Picture to the Mexican-born Iñárritu, Penn said, “Who gave this son of a bitch his green card?”
The remark was met with an immediate backlash on Twitter.
Absolutely horrible green card comment from Sean Penn. The struggles people endure for immigration justice are not punchlines.— Rosianna Halse Rojas (@papertimelady) February 23, 2015
*no one acknowledges Sean Penn being straight up racist*— carly aquilino (@carlyaquilino) February 23, 2015
And great job Sean Penn. Ruining a fantastic moment with a green card "joke." #Tacky— Mario Lopez (@MarioLopezExtra) February 23, 2015
I've traveled to 45 states and head people say "illegal" and "Mexican" interchangeably. That's why green card joke was tone deaf #Oscars— Jose Antonio Vargas (@joseiswriting) February 23, 2015
Iñárritu also won the Oscar for Best Director — the second consecutive Mexican-born director to do so. In 2014, Alfonso Cuarón won Best Director for “Gravity.”
“Maybe next year, the government will inflict some immigration rules [on] the academy,” Iñárritu joked. “Two Mexicans in a row — that's suspicious, I guess.”
Iñárritu then made a poignant plea for immigration reform.
“I want to dedicate this award for my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico. I pray that we can find and build a government that we deserve,” he said. “And the ones that live in this country, who are a part of the latest generation of immigrants in this country, I just pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect as the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation.”
Backstage, Iñárritu, who directed Penn in the 2003 film “21 Grams,” said, he found the “green card” comment “hilarious.”
“Sean and I have that kind of brutal relationship where only true friendship can survive,” Iñárritu said. “I make on him a lot of very tough jokes that I will not tell you.”
“Calm down people!” the Latin Times said in an op-ed. “That ‘racist’ comment Sean Penn made was an inside joke with his friend. ... No need to start a World War III over this.”