April 4th, 2008
03:00 PM ET
4 years ago

Penn calls trade meeting 'error in judgment'

Mark Penn is a chief strategist for the Clinton campaign.
Mark Penn is a chief strategist for the Clinton campaign.

(CNN) - Clinton campaign strategist Mark Penn said Friday it was an "error in judgment" for him to meet with the Colombian ambassador to advocate for a free-trade agreement Hillary Clinton has said she opposes.

"The meeting was an error in judgment that will not be repeated and I am sorry for it," Penn said in an issued statement. "The senator's well known opposition to this trade deal is clear and was not discussed."

The meeting, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, occurred Monday. Penn appears to have been acting in his role as chief executive of the international communications and lobbying firm, Burson-Marsteller Worldwide. The Colombian Embassy hired the firm to help achieve congressional approval of a bill allowing free trade with the country - a proposal Clinton has sharply criticized.

Earlier Friday, Clinton spokesperson Mo Elleithee said the New York senator "remains steadfast against the Colombian Trade Bill," and maintained Penn's meeting was "not in any way done on behalf of the campaign."

Clinton has sharply criticized America's free trade agreements as she campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination, and was particularly critical of rival Barack Obama in February when it was reported that one of his chief foreign policy advisors had suggested to a Canadian official that the Illinois senator was not as anti-free trade as he was claiming to be on the trail.

"I don't think people should come to Ohio and tell the people of Ohio one thing and then have your campaign tell a foreign government something else behind closed doors," Clinton said then. "That's the kind of difference between talk and action and that I've been pointing out in this campaign."

"I would ask you to look at that story, substitute my name for Senator Obama," she also said. "If some of my advisers had been having private meetings with foreign governments and basically saying ignore what I'm saying because it's only political rhetoric ... I think it raises serious questions."

Earlier: Campaign: Penn wasn't representing Clinton in trade meeting


Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Mark Penn
soundoff (304 Responses)
  1. Ifeanyi Azubike Houston Texas

    Penn's appology is noted but then Hillary should be taken at her words. She needs to substitute her name with Obama's and accept full responsibility for what was said. It is wrong to use different standards for different people. She should be able to tell the voters in Pennsylvania that Penn's statements raise serious questions or at least appologize to voters in Ohio. That is what being ready on day one demands.

    April 4, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  2. chula

    The difference between Penn and the Obama guy who spoke to the Canadians.....is that Obamas guy did it with Obamas approval.

    This dumb guy went behind Hillary's back.

    Time to let him go Hill!

    April 4, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  3. nittany

    Such hypocrisy and lies are just stunning.

    America can do better.

    April 4, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  4. Russell

    Lest we forget the Hillary also met with the Canadians about her stance on NAFTA?

    April 4, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  5. PuLEEZZZZZ

    OK. "ERROR IN JUDGEMENT"

    Just updateing my Clinton Dictionary. This just another under the heading of.

    BALD FACED LIE!

    Other entries include. "Misspoke" "Don't recall" "Mis remember" whew! It is hard to keep up!

    OK Clinton Bots you got some 'splainin to do! LOL

    April 4, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  6. Kevin, Louisville, Ky

    Hillary, who is your campaign strategist again?

    Ok may Mark Penn "mis-spoke" to Columbian officials about NAFTA ....

    GO HILLARY!!

    If your strategist is lobbying for NAFTA under the guise of his firm ..what does that say of his beliefs when you win ......

    April 4, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  7. Tx

    I originally thought Clinton was going to be my candidate. However the longer this campaign stretches out, the more inconsistent and dirty I find her to be. It's sad that we as Americans have to decide between corruption and corruption. No one is clean.

    April 4, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  8. wilfred

    Obama : "Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I rest my Case"

    April 4, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  9. Michael in Columbus, Ohio

    Just like NAFTA,lol where are the real stories......

    Obama '08

    April 4, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  10. Mary Lee

    HILLARY IS A LIAR!! Her campaign is so dirty!! So when they make mistakes its ok?

    Hahahahaha,,,,,Hillary you just ate your words!! I hope they taste as bitter as when you spat them out!!

    Now all you Billary supporters, explain to me this incident??

    No more hypocrites, liars, and deceiving criminals in the white house!!

    Vote OBAMA 2008!!! The only person with the real capacity and intelligence to lead!!

    April 4, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  11. Norisha

    There's a difference in listening to somone speak about issue that you may disagree with. It's something entirely different when you are involved in a matter and you are strategizing for your canidate for president whom, Specifically is strongly opposing the dealings that you are involved in! There are some heavy contradictions in the Clinton camp...it's not a good look.

    OBAMA 2008!!!

    April 4, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  12. Wise Dem.

    In Hilary's own word:
    "I don't think people should come to Ohio and tell the people of Ohio one thing and then have your campaign tell a foreign government something else behind closed doors," Clinton said then. "That's the kind of difference between talk and action and that I've been pointing out in this campaign."

    "I would ask you to look at that story, substitute my name for Senator Obama," she also said. "If some of my advisers had been having private meetings with foreign governments and basically saying ignore what I'm saying because it's only political rhetoric … I think it raises serious questions."

    Like in Obama's case this was not just a meeting. Penn is actually lobbying for free trade.

    April 4, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  13. christian

    Ok. Well Obama's guy had his own "other job" too working for a University and it was in that capacity that he met with whatever Canadian official(s) he did. So why does Obama get hell about it and Hillary does not?!?!

    DOUBLE F'ING STANDARD.

    April 4, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  14. Cody S. - Montgomery, AL

    Another shining example of the Clinton camp trying to have it both ways...

    April 4, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  15. Lostfigs

    This story is a non issue.

    April 4, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  16. kevin lynch

    Hillary should get rid of this idiot! He is a twin of the foot fetish guy , whats his name?He is a fox contributor now!

    April 4, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  17. Nate

    Well, no fears because the press wont cover this like they covered the supposed gaff when an Obama staffer spoke with Canada- and of course Obama wont try to make this a key issue because he has run an honorable campaign.

    To bad, I was a huge supporter of both of the Clintons for years and while I still respect Mrs Clintons talents in the senate, she has run a miserable campaign and has at times come off as very self rightous and at other times seems incapable of applying the same standards she demands of Mr. Obama to her own campaign.

    April 4, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  18. Charlotte

    I guess someone is using my name, then again there are a lot of Charlottes around. I'm a Hillary supporter and proud of it. This guy will most likely be terminated from her campaign. It is sad when people seem to undermine the candidate they support with their actions. Powers, Penn and others need to think before they speak. We are in the election of a life time. These are the best possible democratic candidates of all time, being blindsighted by others. We will lose in November, in what should have been a walk in the park.

    April 4, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  19. Sean

    I like how her strategist is also a lobbyist... hmmm... no conflicts of interest there, Im sure...

    April 4, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  20. MP

    "I don't think people should come to PA and tell the people of PA one thing and then have your campaign tell a foreign government something else behind closed doors," Clinton said then (of herself). "That's the kind of difference between talk and action and that I've been pointing out in this campaign."

    "I would ask you to look at that story, substitute my name for Senator Obama," she also said. (OK we Will) "If some of my advisers had been having private meetings with foreign governments(they did) and basically saying ignore what I'm saying because it's only political rhetoric … I think it raises serious questions."

    Yes Senator it does raise questions. Open mouth and insert foot.

    April 4, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  21. Spivey, Austin

    I don't judge Penn trying to make some money on the side but obviously this shows a serious conflict of interest in the Hillary campaign when one of your top guys is consulting a company on how best to take advantage of a possible free trade agreement and yet the candidate herself has said she opposes it, supposedly.

    The Canadian story about Obama was supposedly taken completely out of context and quite possibly have been attributed to the wrong campaign but here you have Penn coming out and saying he was wrong for doing this and admitting fault. Can you say 'caught red-handed'?

    April 4, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  22. Don 0f Pennsylvania

    However, I will bet you next months rent that Mark Penn is not severed from the campaign. Funny how the rules always change for Hillary.

    April 4, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  23. Dave

    Say What?

    This didn't really happen, did it?

    April 4, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  24. Sharon

    Politico is now reporting that the Colombian president's office is now saying that they are unsure if he was representing Clinton or his own company. This story reeks, and will only get more stinky as more details are released. Colombia recently criticized Obama for his stance on CAFTA but didn't say a work about Clinton, even though they supposedly have the same position. Wonder who was giving them the old "wink-wink?"

    April 4, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  25. Robin

    Sad, isn't it?

    April 4, 2008 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
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