Robin Wright Penn has launched a scathing attack on the journalists who mocked her husband Sean Penn's failed mission to rescue survivors of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Oscar-winning actor's well-intentioned attempt to save children from the floods failed miserably when his decrepit boat started leaking dangerously.

The MYSTIC RIVER star, who was desperate to do "whatever I can to help", allegedly forgot to fix a hole in the makeshift rescue vessel, which promptly started sinking as he furiously scooped water out of the boat with a plastic cup.

Penn initially attracted criticism from onlookers when they saw the boat was already crammed with Penn's entourage - including a photographer - before any flood victims climbed onboard.

But Wright Penn is incandescent with rage at the "pathetic" jibes levelled at her husband.

She tells the New York Daily News, "To them, I say 'F**k you! I think it's f**king pathetic to be belittling him. Do we have to go to the bowels of infantile behaviour?

"Here people are dying, and if it wasn't Sean Penn going crazy watching CNN and saying, 'I have to do something' - but instead it was 'Joe Smith from Morgan City' - then those people would be thanking him, not attacking him."